How much can Internet-powered consumers demand?

If information is power, then the Internet makes your power absolute.

Mitch Radcliffe, ZDNet bloggerI'm thrilled to report that Mitch Ratcliffe (right) is feeling much better.

The author of our Rational Rants blog had some terrifying neck problems, but found relief (in the form of an experimental treatment) after blogging about it.

It's a great example of the power of this medium. But you don't have to be a big-name blogger to take advantage of it.

This medium responds to learning, and to familiarity. If you spend time here, just figuring out how things work, you can activate all kinds of help in time of need.

Mitch believes this is changing the medical playing field, giving patients more power in their relationships with doctors.

If information is power, then the Internet makes your power absolute. Several times, just since launching this blog, I've been able to shock my doctors with new knowledge. They can't sneak stuff by me. They're no longer the final word.

But all Internet communication is two-way. I can learn about new research, new drugs, and new devices, but the makers of these things also have new ways to reach me. Those who take fullest advantage, and scale that intimacy, can become big-name brands.

We're lucky, in some ways, that these companies currently have no more idea how to use this medium than we do as users. Imagine drug companies organizing Astroturf blogswarms against the FDA, or device makers having their satisfied customers go after those who have sued because they're dissatisfied.

All this is for the future. The point, today, is that the journey has really just begun. On both sides of every medical transaction.

The danger is the new balance may become even more unequal than what we have now. For rich-poor, think online-offline. Someday soon the digital divide may become life and death.