If you watched media reports you would think that we are winning the war against cancer and that soon treatment will be readily available for a whole range of cancers. This is just not true and but this shallow reporting is now standard for the news industry and is leading to a lot of patient confusion. Health care professionals cannot sit on the sideline any longer they have to get involved by helping patients sort through the hype and the reality. It is quickly becoming more of a necessity than a luxury.
A study of more than 1,000 patients with colon cancer that had spread to distant sites found that one in eight was treated with at least one drug regimen that was not recommended. Those patients were exposed to significant risk without proven benefits, at an estimated cost just for the drugs of more than $2 million. ”Patients with advanced cancers that do not respond to standard therapies should either be looking for clinical trials, where there is a chance for a benefit, or should have been thinking about shifting toward palliative care,” said study author Jonas De Souza, M.D., a hematology/oncology fellow at the University of Chicago. “Patients should not face the risks, discomforts and costs of aggressive and often quite toxic chemotherapy with treatment regimens that did not provide a benefit in previous studies.”
So what does that mean ? It means that patients who go online and try and find new information on cancer treatments to extend life, and hope, are going to be confused by all the conflicting information. Today more than ever HCP’s are going to have to use any tool they have, like email, websites or social media, to communicate with their customers/patients and help clarify all the conflicting information of online health information.
Doctors today need 36 hour days to get done everything they need to do or should do. However with more and more people using online health information consumers cannot count on shallow news reporting via a 60 second report on the nightly news. These reports are often misleading and could drive patients into their doctors to ask for treatments that even their doctor has not had a chance to review yet. The best thing that a doctor can do right now is provide patients with good credible health information in terms they can understand while reminding them of the importance of coming in for regular checkups and staying compliant on their medications.
Websites, such as WebMD have done a superb job in empowering health care consumers. These are the educational sites that patients and consumers seek when they receive a serious diagnosis. They don’t look at the websites for their primary care doctor or hospital.
Most health care systems don’t expect patients to come to us. We have to go to where our consumers are. We have to create truthful, trustworthy, and transparent non-selling environments in the social sphere. We have to embrace the limits of HIPPA and become more social.