Monday, June 23, 2008

e-Patients

I recently discovered this very thought-provoking site, e-Patients.net, dedicated to empowering patients to become educated and active participants in their own health care, primarily by utilizing the educational and social connections made possible by internet resources. 

These are pretty lofty goals. Especially when some physicians and other health care providers adopt an attitude which can range from indifferent to offended by the well-informed healthcare consumer. The authors of e-Patients, many of which are physicians, look to change those attitudes, and in doing so, improve the quality of medical care. (Thanks to e-Patient Dave deBronkart for sending the link to me.)

The physician responsible for creating the e-Patient concept, Tom Ferguson, was a multiple myeloma patient and utilized his own principles and concepts as an e-Patient in dealing with his disease. This information about Dr. Ferguson was taken from the e-Patients site:

Tom Ferguson coined the term e-patients to describe individuals who are equipped, enabled, empowered and engaged in their health and health care decisions. He envisioned health care as an equal partnership between e-patients and health professionals and systems that support them.

Dr. Ferguson and a group of collaborating authors produced a fascinating white paper, found here, which expands and discusses the e-Patient concept. From the introduction: 

"...When patients participate more actively in the process of medical care, we can create a new healthcare system with higher quality service, better outcomes, lower cost, fewer medical mistakes, and happier, healthier patients. We must make this the new gold standard of healthcare quality and the ultimate goal of all our improvement efforts.....
- Charles Safran"

 The paper goes on to elaborate the authors' concepts:

Patient-Driven Healthcare: Seven Preliminary Conclusions

1. e-Patients have become valuable healthcare resources and should be treated as such.
2. The art of "empowering" patients is trickier than we had thought.
3. We have underestimated patients' ability to provide useful online resources.
4. We have overestimated the hazards of imperfect online health information.
5. Whenever possible, healthcare should take place on the patient's "turf".
6. Clinicians can no longer go it alone.
7. The most effective way to improve healthcare is to make it more collaborative.
As the author of a patient centered blog I am excited and gratified to read of this movement in healthcare. Those patients in the blogsphere and cyberspace have seen this need and have been working on our side of the solution for years. It's good to see healthcare providers step up to to the challenge.

I encourage readers to visit this site and take the time to read the white paper.

2 comments:

e-Patient Dave said...

Great to meet you, Julia! (I set up a Google Alert for "e-patient," so you were in my morning mail.)

There's a lot going on, just in the last few months, to develop the e-patient concepts and spread awareness. Thanks for joining the fray.

I only started writing on the e-patient blog in the past few months, after discovering the concept in January. The scholars who completed "DocTom's" work have been at it for years.

It's great to have you joining the merry fray. Stay in touch.

Julia said...

Great to meet you, too Dave!

I am so glad to see a movement which exists to empower and educate people to be successful in their health.

Please keep me updated with new developments!

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