Failures in U.S. healthcare quality are not new—in the wake of the recent healthcare reform debates numerous reports stated that the U.S. is near the bottom of the developed world in safety, timeliness, equity, and efficiency of care. And it seems the only thing Washington can agree upon is that we spend more as a percentage of our GDP than any other developed country.

It turns out however, that our healthcare crises are not really about quality—in small pockets we engineer and deliver some of the best care in the world. Our problems are about heterogeneity.

Fragmentation is what is breaking the U.S. system. The communities of medicine, wellness, and biomedical research and innovation have evolved in silos. I say the evolution of these silos has run its course.

Today, your health outcomes are as much dependent on your zip code and lifestyle as your personal genetics or risk factors.
We need a common-sense solution that is simple, intuitive, and scalable.

I believe the solutions to our healthcare quality crises lies largely in our ability to encourage, enable, and cultivate a lean culture of social health, medicine, and research—a model I call “SocialQI.” (The “QI” stands for “quality improvement.”)

What is the SocialQI model? It’s what would happen if the disparate communities of medicine, patients/wellness, and biomedical research/innovation were given a new model for sharing and connecting, one that empowered individuals in their own healthcare, patient care, and experimentation, and also enabled the various communities to engineer solutions with far broader and more integrated goals.

It’s also what would happen if sociologists and behavioral scientists of our day—Clay Shirky, BJ Fogg, Richard Thaler, Malcolm Gladwell, Daniel Pink, Nicholas Christakis, and Rebecca Costa—were brought together to solve the problems of healthcare, to drive quality improvement through their innovative concepts of cognitive surplus, triggers, nudges, tipping points, motivation, connectedness, and defeating
supermemes. These concepts have rarely, if ever, been pursued in this context.

In the coming weeks and months I will be interviewing hundreds of leaders in medicine, empowerment, health, biomedical research, social technologies, and behavioral economics as I literally write the book on SocialQI.
You can follow the evolution of the book by following the hashtag #socialQI via Twitter—that’s where I will be documenting my research and interactions with thought leaders. My hope is that the #socialQI hashtag will provide glimpses into the concepts driving this book and stimulate conversations that will improve it.

My thanks go out in advance for the efforts and contributions of many in the emerging healthcare and social media community (Twitter hashtag: #hcsm)—your dedication has empowered and inspired me to explore the strengths and limitations of the SocialQI model and to permanently etch these thoughts on paper.

Brian S. McGowan, PhD, has dedicated the past 12 years
to medical education as a faculty member, mentor,
accredited provider, and commercial supporter. The
opinions expressed are McGowan’s and do not represent the views of past, current, or future employers. Contact him via Twitter: @BrianSMcGowan.

More of Brian's Columns:

Here Comes the Data: How Physicians Use Social Media
Social Learning Adoption in CME
Social Media: From Adoption to Using