Online medical advice, EHRs and the "quantified self" are converging.
Attendees at the sixth annual Health 2.0 Conference in San Francisco got a taste of this Monday during a standing-room-only session on new tools for patient-provider communication, where entrepreneur Birju Shah showed off his latest venture, SugarCrew, a social networking site for people with diabetes.
Combining elements of social media, gaming and electronic health records, SugarCrew gives patients a place to ask their own doctors questions about diabetes care and allows physician practices to generate extra revenue by charging a fee for this convenience.
Physicians can use the site to share a patient's record with other healthcare professionals when making referrals to specialists, while patients can set up their own private wikis to connect with friends and relatives. SugarCrew's website bills this as a way for physicians to expose their names to potential new patients.
"It's a trusted, curated network," Shah said. He said that more than 20,000 patients are using the system, available through the Web or as an Apple iOS mobile app – an Android version is on the way – and usage averages eight hours a week. "People you trust" are answering patient inquiries, he added, taking a bit of a dig at the HealthTaps of the world that let patients query doctors they might not have a relationship with.
SugarCrew is built on top of MDBug, an EHR with 2011 "meaningful use" certification that includes a social network for physicians and patients. Shah, who started the "Ninja group" at MIT Sloan School of Management that has created more than 100 startup companies, co-founded MDBug.
It also is compatible with more than 150 medical and fitness devices that measure patient vitals and metrics, according to Shah, including NikeFuel and Medtronic products. This feature allows physicians to capture data for participating in Medicare's Physician Quality and Reporting System.