OMG! Who’s in Charge Here?

October 24, 2013

There is a new order coming our way: the ‘e-patient’ rises.

E-patient Dave suffered from a rare, probably fatal disease. His primary care doctor did not know much about it but was willing to listen to his patient when information was presented to him by this patient.

To make a long story, short, it turned out well. The patient survived and both the physician and patient became active in promoting a new era of Participatory Medicine

What is an e-patient? Who is an e-patient?  Are you one? Am I?

An e-patient is an internet-smart patient that uses the web to get information beneficial to themselves that may help in caring for his/her medical condition.

Wikipedia states:

“E-Patients report two effects of their online health research: “better health information and services, and different (but not always better) relationships with their doctors.”

A relatively new movement called Participative Medicine is gaining strength. This group believes that the patient/doctor relationship should not be primarily physician dominated and directed. It is their thinking that networked patients should be encouraged to be active participants in planning care with their doctors and not passive recipients.


The possibilities are amazing.

There is just too much information available now. No one can know it all. We can all benefit from the use of Social Media as a resource and embrace the ease with which a large amount of information can be brought forth for us to use, easily.

There are a rising number of people willing to participate in this type of medical care.

Those in medicine that remain resistant and want to dominate the direction of their patient’s treatment, without participation by that patient may have to change their ways.  In a blog done earlier in this series the diagnosis of ‘Googlitis’ was  mentioned. The context was that of the patient that was focused on self-diagnosis without the advantage of the trained professional’s judgement. Well, this can be included in my concept of an e patient.  The hard part is knowing how to engage this patient and get the patient to work with (or even for) the doctor and not try to become the doctor.  In this way, the information gleaned from the internet can be used to enhance the level of care and shared knowledge instead of becoming adversarial.

The important ‘e’ patient should be (as aptly defined by Wikipedia):

“They are equipped, enabled, empowered, engaged, equals, emancipated and experts.

  • Equipped with the skills to manage their own condition.
  • Enabled to make choices about self-care and those choices are respected.
  • Empowered
  • Engaged patients are engaged in their own care
  • Equals in their partnerships with the various physicians involved in their care
  • Emancipated
  • Expert patients can improve their self-rated health status, cope better with fatigue and other generic features of chronic disease such as role limitation, and reduce disability and their dependence on hospital care.”

Some physicians are worried by this and are resistant. Others are beginning to see the future in this relationship and embrace it.

It is an interesting peek into a new future of health care. We all need to work together.

Google ‘E-patient Dave’. His story may open your eyes, both as a patient or a health care provider.  After all, we are all in this together.

About Robert Waxler, M.D.

Robert Waxler, M.D. specializes in internal medicine and geriatrics at the Bob Hope Health Center.

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