Bringing the Principles of Couchsurfing to Healthcare

This post originally appeared on HIStalk

For the uninitiated, couchsurfing is literally sleeping on a stranger’s couch for free. It’s an incredible global movement in which millions of people have participated.

My friend Alex Liss just produced a new documentary, One Couch at a Time, in which she couchsurfed six continents spanning 20 countries over the course of six months. She funded the trip via Kickstarter; directed, filmed, and produced the movie; and is now distributing the movie. Congratulations to Alex!

I always try to apply knowledge and insight across domains. How would couchsurfing work in healthcare? Can it work? Or is healthcare too rigid and bureaucratic for such a liberal and free-thinking movement like couchsurfing to succeed?

Couchsurfing is about openness, sharing, and cultural exchange. It’s about community. Slowly, these traits are taking root in the healthcare system:

  • PatientsLikeMe provides community and support for patients who deal with similar lifestyle and clinical challenges.
  • Doximity connects doctors to share and learn from each other.
  • ZocDoc empowers patients to find and compare doctors.
  • NewChoiceHealth allows the public to see and compare procedure costs across care providers.
  • Happtique and Healthtap are helping patients and doctors discover and use healthcare apps more effectively.
  • The entire quantified self and wearable computing movement is all about collecting, understanding, and sharing our personal data.

There will always be personal and intimate relationships between patients and doctors. But patients will also develop online and online-to-offline relationships with a host of others to complement the patient-physician relationship. Some of the best doctors will mobilize patients to engage with others to provide continued support and success overtime. These doctors understand that they provide the foundation to springboard their patients into complementary activities and relationships.

These complementary sharing networks and relationships are potent. It’s widely known that social pressure pushes people to lead healthier lifestyles, which turn reduces healthcare expenses.

Couchsurfing is one of the most powerful movements on the Internet. It fosters some of the best beliefs and practices in human nature and culture. It’s about time that healthcare and couchsurfing collide.