The term Web 2.0 became popular following the O’Reilly Media Web 2.0 conference in 2004; however, there are difficulties in its application to health and medicine. Principally, the definition published by O’Reilly is criticized for being too amorphous, where other authors claim that Web 2.0 does not really exist. Despite this skepticism, the online community using Web 2.0 tools for health continues to grow, and the term Medicine 2.0 has entered popular nomenclature.
This paper aims to establish a clear definition for Medicine 2.0 and delineate literature that is specific to the field. In addition, we propose a framework for categorizing the existing Medicine 2.0 literature and identify key research themes, underdeveloped research areas, as well as the underlying tensions or controversies in Medicine 2.0’s diverse interest groups.
In the first phase, we employ a thematic analysis of online definitions, that is, the most important linked papers, websites, or blogs in the Medicine 2.0 community itself. In a second phase, this definition is then applied across a series of academic papers to review Medicine 2.0’s core literature base, delineating it from a wider concept of eHealth.
The terms Medicine 2.0 and Health 2.0 were found to be very similar and subsume five major salient themes: (1) the participants involved (doctors, patients, etc); (2) its impact on both traditional and collaborative practices in medicine; (3) its ability to provide personalized health care; (4) its ability to promote ongoing medical education; and (5) its associated method- and tool-related issues, such as potential inaccuracy in enduser-generated content. In comparing definitions of Medicine 2.0 to eHealth, key distinctions are made by the collaborative nature of Medicine 2.0 and its emphasis on personalized health care. However, other elements such as health or medical education remain common for both categories. In addition, this emphasis on personalized health care is not a salient theme within the academic literature. Of 2405 papers originally identified as potentially relevant, we found 56 articles that were exclusively focused on Medicine 2.0 as opposed to wider eHealth discussions. Four major tensions or debates between stakeholders were found in this literature, including (1) the lack of clear Medicine 2.0 definitions, (2) tension due to the loss of control over information as perceived by doctors, (3) the safety issues of inaccurate information, and (4) ownership and privacy issues with the growing body of information created by Medicine 2.0.
This paper is distinguished from previous reviews in that earlier studies mainly introduced specific Medicine 2.0 tools. In addressing the field’s definition via empirical online data, it establishes a literature base and delineates key topics for future research into Medicine 2.0, distinct to that of eHealth.