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This article was written by Hope Leman.
Just try keeping track of the plethora of players in the online patient community / health-focused social network scene. Many patient communities have been started (e.g. MDJunction) by entrepreneurs who were spurred to create their sites by the difficulties friends or relatives had in obtaining emotional and social support during prolonged battles with illness.
HopeCube is one such site. HopeCube, like its rivals Trusera and MDJunction, has virtually no presence of medical professionals (unlike the heavy presence of such at sites such as MedHelp). At HopeCube, there are a mere six MDs listed under the category “Health Professionals” and the others on that page were providers of the New Age variety (e.g. relationship counselors — misspelled on the site as â€œcounselerâ€ — and fitness trainers). The details on this limited number were sketchy and many of the links on the page were dead. One of the doctors listed is Dr. David Kim of Beverly Hills Plastic Surgery, which gives you an inkling of HopeCube’s target audience.
Rather interestingly, unlike the blog of Patients Like Me and that of OrganizedWisdom, which are slick marketing tools, HopeCube’s blog is a forum for HopeCube members who, incidentally, don’t seem to be into tagging their entries given that the vast majority of them fall under the unhelpful rubric “Uncategorized.” HopeCube’s blog appears to be the main method of participation for many of the members. But the participation is asymmetric in that the vast majority of entries have not elicited any comments.
HopeCube may not have the lineup of medical heavyweights that is a notable feature of MedHelp, but it does provide helpful links to authoritative sources. For instance, on the amyotrophic lateral sclerosis page the related links were to the Mayo Clinic, MedlinePlus and the ALS Association — all solid, reputable sources. There was also a handy pathway to recent stores on Neurology / Neuroscience News in the online news service, Medical News Today which is a very useful resource in and of itself and one which I have not seen on other consumer health sites or at rival online patient communities in particular.
But much of the rest of the site seems mundanely pre-Web 2.0 in many respects. Rather blah interface and much of the site is old-line discussion board question and answer stuff at the member to member level — a far cry from the medical authority-laden dialogues of MedHelp or of the longstanding easy camaraderie among the members of Patient Like Me. You just have to wonder when health consumers will say, “Enough already with one paragraph answers by Joe Average — I will just call my local public library or visit MedlinePlus.” I thought that maybe I was just not seeing a richer interactive experience because I had not registered, so I finally reluctantly did (which, admittedly, went smoothly enough). But I still didn’t see much that wowed me — the interactivity level of HopeCube is circa 2001.
I don’t think HopeCube has too bright a future and is pretty pedestrian on the whole. Those who want to get health information from other health consumers would be better off visiting the far livelier, content-rich Omgili Health.
Additional patient social networks are listed in the Highlight HEALTH Web Directory.
About the author: Hope Leman writes about Health 2.0 and the e-patient movement at Significant Science. She is also a writer for AltSearchEngines, which covers hundreds of alternative / niche search engines. Hope is a research information technologist for a health network in Oregon and is also Web administrator of the grants and scholarship listing service ScanGrants.