I’ve found the blog Groundswell published by Forrester Research to be a thoughtful resource for trend info, research, and commentary around online social media. I recently came across this post, “How to create a social application for life sciences without getting fired,” which explores the tendencies for people living with chronic medical conditions to participate in online social media.

The chart below taken from this post maps a variety of medical conditions on a scale of “participation in online social media” vs. “benefit from online social media.” The map places conditions like depression and obesity in the upper right “Misery Loves Company” quadrant because those people tend to be actively engaged in social media and could benefit from the shared connections it offers. Conversely someone with osteoporosis is probably older and less engaged in new media, and wouldn’t find much benefit even if they were.

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At the root of this study is the assumption that people living with chronic health conditions are hungry for information and help from outside the mainstream healthcare industry. I believe this is true because healthcare, in general, does a horrendous job of delivering basic care information to patients in way they understand and relate to. Abysmally low compliance and persistency rates bare this out: the pharmaceutical industry loses $30 billion a year in revenue because patients don’t follow their care plans.

This is a classic design problem on a massive scale. And one that communication designers are uniquely suited to solve. What’s needed here is not a new device or drug, it’s clear, simple visual information delivered with empathy and care—that’s what we do!

When Lisa and I formed Type1Tools and HealthSimple, it was a direct result of our experience with the lousy way in which we received critical care information for our daughter after her diagnosis with Type1 diabetes.

The takeaway here is that if you are a communication designer looking for an area to explore entrepreneurially, healthcare should be at the top of your list. This Groundswell study gives you some clues that online social media might be part of the solution for you.

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Two blogs about design and entrepreneurship coming from the same neighborhood? Must be the water.
menuI had a great conversation yesterday with fellow Minneapolitan Jeff Johnson, proprietor of Spunk Design Machine and creator of the video blog Design Smoke which also discusses design and entrepreneurship. Jeff is an old pal, a dynamite designer, and a kindered soul on this topic—he’s been evangelizing about entrepreneurship as long as I can remember. Check out Design Smoke if you haven’t already…and look for the video of our conversation sometime soon(ish).