Online Medical Advice Goes Social

Schorsch had the idea for Trusera after contracting Lyme disease on a trip to the East Coast in 2004. For three months, he went from doctor to doctor in Seattle, undiagnosed, his health deteriorating rapidly in a welter of confusing symptoms, until an East Coast friend finally suggested that he get tested for Lyme. Along the way, Schorsch found that his most trusted sources of health information weren't always doctors: they were often people who had been through similar health crises and had sage advice to share.

For the most part, the people contributing to Trusera are ordinary citizens, many of them struggling with chronic disease. For instance, "Pickel," the mother of a developmentally disabled five-year-old, writes candidly on Trusera about a range of issues, from a post about her son's experience on the drug Risperdal to an explanation of tax benefits for parents of special-needs children. It may seem dubious to be getting medical advice from someone you know only as Pickel, but that's where the site's content-ranking system comes in. Trusera is built around the idea that its members earn credibility with one another. Among the new features unrolled with today's official launch are functions that allow members to give "popularity points" to useful posts and trusted fellow members.

"Humans are storytelling machines. It's one thing to ask for charted data and patient health records; it's another to ask for experiences. We're focusing on the latter," says Schorsch. "There's incredible power in analyzing and indexing the unstructured info that people contribute."

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