I’m an e-patient: equipped, enabled, empowered, engaged

stethoscopesocial200Dave deBronkart, writes “There may be other industries where so much has changed at once, but I don’t know of them. I myself lived through dramatic restructuring of my industry thirty years ago – typesetting – when desktop publishing put fonts and tools in consumer hands. Today most of my industry lives in your computer, perhaps even in your phone. We who excelled at the old game couldn’t imagine such change, but reality is reality, and when technology democratizes, change is real. Some ignored it at their peril – but some understood it, and got a leg up on the laggards.”

The Internet has become a fundamental part of most people’s lives, and that means it’s come to medicine. Pew Internet research shows the extent of online consumer engagement in health, and it’s widely said that there are more Googlesearches for health every day than there are doctor visits. The good news is, this is a clear sign that families want to understand their health – they want to engage and be informed. Providers who welcome this – who teach, coach, encourage – will be preferred over ones who roll their eyes.


Plus, smart patient communities can be genuine partners, bringing real value to overloaded clinicians. As I said in testimony one day in Washington, “The solution is not to restrict and constrain. Empower the people: enable, and train.”

  • e-HealthGadgets, self-monitoring, and useful websites that help people track their conditions. It’s still early days in this area, but it’s happening. And it tickles me that my own doctor can’t see the slick charts I have ­– far sexier than his – when he looks at my record in his system. That will come, as the big-iron systems realize they’d better open up or look stupid.
  • Consumerism:  This is a scary word for professionals because on the surface it sounds like medicine’s getting dumbed down, like buying a TV at Best Buy. Well, the major reasons I trust Best Buy are that their online convenience is awesome, their prices are clear, and I can take things back if I don’t like them. I do want my docs to have convenience features – online appointments, online medical records I can check at home – but when I need surgery, I want excellence, not a return policy. I want good infection rates, I want to know your infection rates, and I want someone who listens to my needs and lets me help. Not just for my generation – for my mom and my daughter … and someday my grandchild.

Consumerism is a threat if you’re worried how you rank. But if you want to be rewarded for being better than the rest, there’s nothing better than readily accessible quality data and great satisfaction scores.


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