WebMD, the Web site that allows users to diagnose their own medical problems, was founded in 2005. Wikipedia was founded in 2001, but it wasn’t until 2005 that it began to be recognized as being just as good, if not better, than the traditional alternative (a huge stack of books called an encyclopedia).
The internet has always been focused around user-driven, interactive content, but we’re only now getting organized enough to do something more useful than watch videos of cute animals or listen to music without driving to a record store.
Ten years ago, if you had wanted information about nose jobs, for example, you could have found a lot of information on the Web. But it would have been spread thin across many different Web sites of varying reliability and legitimacy. Now, with a peer-driven web communities such as realself.com (for example), you can instantly find good advice from real, verified doctors, read stories and information provided by people who have experienced first hand the thing you want to know about and you can ask them questions and get answers, including actual Sacramento plastic surgeons who perform rhinoplasties. The difference between online communities like these and the Web sites we used to know is a cultural one. These communities are full of people who recognize the momentous importance of acting as stewards of good information so that it’s available to people who need it.
This isn’t a replacement for doctors and hospitals and standard treatment—it’s a way for people to educate and inform themselves before they talk to their doctors who are going to make decisions that will dramatically alter their lives.
The most important thing about these communities is that the information is accessible and understandable to the average person. Before these types of communities existed, the alternative was to read articles in medical journals written for and by doctors or listen to the spurious advice of anonymous internet voices.
Open data and community-driven Web sites are the future of the Web and plastic surgery resources are leading the way. There are hosts of patient driven Web sites and the information is generally accurate – at least as far as a patient’s opinion is concerned. What is a little nebulous is that there is no fact checking and no quality control of the information posted. Some practices – like “Lifestyle Lift” have employed their staffs to write glowing reviews of the “experience” with the procedure. New York Courts found this unethical, but they paid only a $300,000 fine and were back to business as usual… That being said, I’m not much of a conspiracy theorist and think most of the sites are pretty good. Here are a few resources to get you started: