Partnerships with Online Communities – The Long Tail

June 4, 2010

Chris Anderson in writing Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More, popularized this concept particularly in viewing markets in the wired world. How does it apply to health care? Probably in many ways. But specifically it came to mind in thinking about the relationship of provider organizations like hospitals and online communities. While many online communities may attract large numbers, for instance, in diabetes and breast cancer, many more condition specific communities are relatively small even though they may have a national or international scope. Gilles Frydman of ACOR recognized this early by encouraging the proliferation of online communities through his listserv.

Provider organizations are moving into social media but struggling to identify meaningful ways to connect with their patients through Facebook and Twitter. Perhaps the struggle has to do with a broad stroke strategy of trying to appeal to all comers. The real opportunity is in the Long Tail of small online communities who know the best hospitals, information sources, physicians for their disease or condition and talk to each other about it all the time. Certainly has found this in the specialize community of ALS and others like it have found the value in the long tail. What about groups like Marfan Syndrome or others that fall under the umbrella of the National Organization of Rare Diseases (NORD).  Specialist who treat these diseases in the long tail of healthcare have a unique opportunity to become online partners potentially contributing to blogs, social networks or listservs and inviting patients to post blogs about their experiences on the hospital’s blog or Facebook page. There are many possibilities to explore – meetups, suggestions for improving care – hope to see some take up this challenge.

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3 Responses to “Partnerships with Online Communities – The Long Tail”

  1. Joseph says:

    Many companies also rely on mobile applications and sites to gain more clout and partnerships. For example, people today might order prescriptions online via mobile AccessRx ( People can order Mcdonalds by either calling or browsing their website. Medicinal companies should invest in mobile apps just the same.

  2. Great linkage John. Specialists are by definition already long tail, though not in the participatory way you describe. Our current system distracts primary care physicians to not focus on fewer modalities. We’d have far better care if all of medicine was long tail.

  3. [...] Article John W. Sharp, eHealth, 4 June 2010 SHARETHIS.addEntry({ title: "Partnerships with Online Communities – The Long Tail", url: "" }); [...]

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