Technology Can ‘Clear the Path’ to Help People with Health Conditions Find the Information, Support They Seek
By Will Rompala
Chief Technology Officer – Health Union
September 20, 2019
It would be impossible to find a person who could argue there just isn’t enough information on the internet. On the contrary, there’s more information out there than anybody really knows how to handle. The real questions become how to match the most relevant information to individuals’ situations and how to make it easy for them to find that relevant information. This is especially important when it comes to health content for people living with a chronic health condition.
The challenge to find the most relevant information, as well as the desire to connect with others with shared experiences, can become magnified and more emotionally charged when one’s health is involved. People who are living with a chronic health condition – whether they are newly diagnosed, considering a new treatment or researching alternative therapy options – are looking for information, connection and validation they need to live better, healthier lives.
Data Science, Machine Learning and Health Content
Within technology, there’s a lot of discussion of data science and machine learning. While these terms often connote non-personal ideas of mechanical efficiency for the benefit of the company or publisher, the capabilities can be – and are, in Health Union’s case – used to improve and enhance the experience of the users within our growing portfolio of online health communities.
Consistent with our company focus on “meeting people where they are,” I view the role of our technology team as truly seeking to understand and prioritize how these tools and technologies “clear the path” to getting people the most relevant health content. Every technological decision we make evolves from this purpose and is designed to ensure that every visitor has access to meaningful engagement opportunities and content that is personally relevant to their personal journey.
One application for machine learning is to deliver relevant health content based on previous actions. For example, if someone visits LungCancer.net in the future and answers a question about treatment options or “scanxiety,” we aim to create algorithms that then notify the visitor that a similar question has been asked. In this scenario, people will receive meaningful and relevant content that provides more opportunity for them to engage as they feel appropriate.
Although it might seem paradoxical on paper, technology can – and often does – play a significant role in making people’s health experiences seem as personal and meaningful as possible. We believe that, by “clearing the path” to access the information, connection and validation they seek, we are helping people with these challenging conditions live better.