digital divide

Empowered patients, greedy pharmacoms and the coming 'eHealth divide'

Who wants to appropriate the so-called “eHealth revolution” and put it to commercial use? Just have a read through this scary bit of pharmacom fireside chat freshly published on The Pharmaceutical Executive Magazine website then we’ll talk.

Thus spoke Sarah Krüg, from the Medical Education Group at Pfizer. Patients empowerment via online databases,  open information sharing and web-based self-help groups represents a business opportunity for pharmacoms (but then what doesn’t?). The danger that the biomedical monopoly over health care be replaced by an even more pervasive pharmaceutical merchandising is a clear and present one.

Apomediation and Medicine 2.0 have to proceed in close association with a big dose of vigilance. Vigilance to prevent astroturfing in online communities. Vigilance to be aware of drug-pushing. Vigilance to avoid that bridging the digital divide (the age, sex and socio-economic status gap in accessing online information) doesn’t result in creating a new “eHealth divide” between those who have access to quality online information about health care – and those who are prey of Big Pharma disinformation.

‘Digital natives’: it’s an old, old notion…

I few months ago, I was the resident “critical thinker” at the Lift10 conference in Geneva. In that capacity, I delivered the speech that you can now watch here (with slides), where I debunk the myth of the digital natives. In the last three decades this myth has taken many forms. Computer Kids of the 1980s turned into Internet Children of the 1990s, before being dubbed Digital Natives in the 2000s. Some of the members of this so-called new generation of computer users are already pushing forty…

Kids nowadays are *not* naturally better  than adults at using computers. Yet the media have spread the belief  that a technological and cultural evolution is taking place. This belief hides the inequalities of access to information in today’s society, and the differentials in socio-economic status between the richer younger generations and the socially excluded older ones. The divide between ‘digital immigrants’ and ‘natives’ reproduces the same inequalities that we can observe in our off-line world.