At the Healthcare Internet Conference" near Orlando, FL – We've talked before about how the days of "The Doctor as God" or "I'm the Doctor, You're Not" is over. But some major hospitals are having trouble putting the patient in "first position" on their websites even though their stated mission is to put patients first.

Over the years it has been patient care that has been valued. That has not been necessarily true for hearing from patients, featuring patient stories and photos, or encouraging patients to talk to other patients publically or have an active online give and take with their doctors. At this conference of 400-500 American hospital marketers and web site managers there is very active discussion about "social networking" and how patients are talking about your organization elsewhere on the web whether you pay attention to them on your site or not.

A leading social networking expert, Shel Holtz, has been telling us this is the future of the Web – people talking to people about their health and healthcare experience. I couldn't agree more. For too long healthcare organization web sites have been consumed with showing off basic information, their leading-edge healthcare approaches and technologies, and why their doctors and facility are best. Rarely have they – front and center – featured the photos, videos, and stories of the real people whose lives they have improved through great healthcare. Hospitals can give you a million reasons why they have overlooked this or hesitated. So what we are left with are features about star doctors and surgeries and stock advertising photos of smiling people who resemble a key demographic.

Certainly there are exceptions that I love including these sites: M.D. Anderson, and University of Maryland, among a few others. But the good news that may come out of this conference is that these may soon be joined by many others. There is a coming realization that your happy patients are your stars, not just your million-dollar-a-year surgeons. There is also the point that's being made loud and clear that patients are talking to patients anyway – on Facebook, blogs, and other "social networking" sites - and that you, the hospital, should be part of that discussion and even encourage it.

So what about Patient Power? What's our position on this?: We couldn't be more excited! I have always believed the patients should be featured, and not just with a discussion of their diagnosis, but expanded to include who they are as people, with health challenges and concerns. That's what we do in our webcasts, and it is what we will soon be doing with video clips and blogs, slide shows and embedding our features every place we can. As one speaker here said, it is not about an organization being ON the web. It's about being OF the web. That's Patient Power – we are OF the web in any way that makes sense to help people feel empowered and make better health decisions.

Soon we will be asking you to participate more actively: submitting patient stories and videos, commenting on what others post, making suggestions, asking questions, and just generally being active. Click, upload, sound off. And tell others about us.

As you know, Patient Power is a "little guy" in the health communications space, but we feel we are innovative, unique, passionate, and can have a powerful voice. Please be part of it and help us be our best with you!

Wishing you and your family the best of health!

Andrew