User login


You are here

Web 2.0 and Medicine

MichelleLOyen's picture

I stumbled across this interesting blog post yesterday concerning an upcoming course on medicine via web 2.0.   It appeared quite interesting from several perspectives: first, medicine is often associated with being behind the times on technology but this all looks pretty current, secondly it may be the most comprehensive listing of topics I have seen where web 2.0 is applied to a single discipline, and finally it made me wonder what more we could do with mechanics via web 2.0 beyond just the current features that drive iMechanica!


Mike Ciavarella's picture


In medicine there is a lot more money involved, a lot more ethics involved, and it is not a case that from Lancet it was where a strong opposition from the traditional and conservative oligopolistic Elsevier attack was launched, by funding   is a hugely growing nonprofit organization of scientists and physicians committed to making the world's scientific and medical literature a freely available public resource.

But in fact you know this, isn't this why we are trying to reach NIH kind of money with mechanics idea?  We want to enter this rich world, also for its more direct usefulness for humanity. 

michele ciavarella

ericmock's picture


Having spent 13 weeks with two of my children (nine for the first and four for the second) in the neonatal ICU, and my daughter already having nine surgeries with another one coming Tuesday, I can say for certain that in practice medicine is behind the times with technology.  With education, I think they are probably about equals.

For example, it was only about two years ago that we stopped having to carry 'film' from the labs to the clinics (and this was at Penn State's Hershey Medical Center/School).  Most medical records are still hand-written as this is still the fastest, most convenient, and private-from-the-patient way for doctors to take notes.  Most hospital charts are still hand written.  In fact, for the first time I saw charts kept electronically (using unique barcodes on medical bracelets) when my wife was recently (a month ago) recovering from a c-section at our small local hospital.  Hershey Medical Center still records everything by hand.

Voice recorders were adopted pretty early by doctors but they just replaced tape recorders for dictating notes.  The problem with these is that doctors don't always want the patient to hear what they're thinking.  PDAs were adopted quite early and quite a few PalmOS applications were written with doctors in mind.  In fact, I think one of the iPhone applications Apple demoed was aimed at the medical community.

There is also a lot of work in developing haptic surgical trainers for medical students and continued training.  In fact I was once pursuing some work with surgeons about developing a computer model of the liver that students could interact with, i.e. cut, suture, and probe, through a haptic endoscope.  Nothing came of it but it was an interesting issue on which I know many MD/PhDs are working.  Real-time haptics are quite computationally intensive since you need a refresh rate of about 10ms.

I'd say in education, the medical community uses technology about like and to the extent we do. 

Regarding the use of the web '2.0' it is really about where 1.9 ends and 2.0 starts. Other than the TinyMCE javascript editor used for composing messages, nothing in iMechanica counts as '2.0' in my view.  Blogs are really just the marriage of usenet and html.  I.e., we could have been having this very discussion 15 years ago in a usenet group.  I think 2.0-features start with sending and receiving 'micro-content' without having to refresh a lot of static data.  This allows for web applications, e.g. Google Apps.

As I've written before here and in two proposals to NSF ( and, I think recently (in the past five years) developed web technology finally enables interactive publishing.  I think the Living Review Articles concept in the 'nsfcdi' proposal is a good place to start with mechanics in the Web 2.0 world.

Eric Mockensturm

MichelleLOyen's picture


sounds brutal re: the NICU.  I'd be quite interested to hear what happened off-line, I'd love it if you dropped me an email since a large part of my research in the last 7 or 8 years has concerned mechanical factors in premature birth.  I have visited the NICU on many occasions and seen the ultra-preemies  born prior to 28 weeks gestation, and have also witnessed the births of three mid-preemies in the 30-35 week gestation range. 

Regardless of that, though, you make a great point about medical records.  We find this to be particularly true in the context of pregnancy and parenting, that people are more likely that in other instances to have ownership of their own medical records and to carry them from doctor to doctor.  One of the biggest problems in harnassing computer technology for this purpose has been privacy laws; the other issue that arises is one of storage space.  High resolution x-rays and (even worse) 3-D data sets from CT, MRI or PET scanning require a lot more storage space than the plain text associated with other aspects of the medical record.  But this is yet again one of the places where I believe the technology exists and the engineering challenge is to apply existing technology to healthcare.


Subscribe to Comments for "Web 2.0 and Medicine"

Recent comments

More comments


Subscribe to Syndicate