Health : e Patient, Heal Thy Self

Healthcare in our current technology-based society is much different than the Healthcare our parents experienced during the post-war era and it is primarily the free flow of information that is facilitating this change. Information provided through the Internet and Social Media combined with the personal experiences of patients being shared through Social Networking is changing the way we care for ourselves, rapidly turning patients into their own providers.

The current state of healthcare is not in-line with what is happening in our opt-in society where annoyances can be blocked, removed, and/or completely ignored. A society where information on every topic is freely available to be granularly selected and then accessed through the technology device of our choosing.

The depersonalization / fragmentation of medical care, and the dehumanizing effects of our current patient/provider system will not be tolerated when up-to-date information and the real-world experiences of patients, ‘Like Me’, are freely available.

The Information provided by trusted peers may have more impact on self-care than information provided by physicians that struggle to keep up to date. The experiences of those who share their self-care triumphs and failures online may be more influential then advice from a provider that has no personal experience living with the specific condition.

Sites such as Patients Like Me, are connecting individuals with chronic illnesses and transforming self-care. Individuals suffering from a variety of conditions are managing them through the shared experiences of their peers. The evidence of change in self-care behavior as the result of being a member of a site like Patients Like Me is clear, as reported in a recent a survey of their members:

  • Between 6% and 21% of members changed their physician as a result of using the site, varying by disease with fibromyalgia (a disease that is difficult to diagnose and treat) leading the way.
  • 59% of users said recording their symptoms on the site had been “helpful” or “very helpful” in managing their condition
  • 22% of mood disorders group said they needed less inpatient care as a result of using the site, and 26% agreed they think less about self-harm
  • Respondents to the survey confirmed higher levels of quality of life and perceived control over their condition due to their participation

In addition to these social spaces and Internet-based resources of information such as WebMD, there are new devices and technologies that bring the medical office into the home. Devices that not only help to manage chronic illnesses but to monitor and maintain your general health.

An example of technology that has the potential to revolutionize healthcare is called “Remote Healthcare Management”.  Remote healthcare management can include an array of wireless medical devices (such as scales, glucose and heart monitors, drug dispenser, Asthma flow meter, etc.) that are connected to a base that has a web-cam and acts as a data aggregator, directly linked to your provider.

BL Healthcare is a great example of Remote Healthcare Management and a patient-centered medical home.

In order for this shift in health care to be fully realized it is medical billing that must shift from a fee-for-service model to a salaried model. Physicians deserve to be paid for their services, but in order for patients to be fully empowered and for communication lines between patient and provider to be opened, medical care to patients must be provided through contractual agreements between business and governmental units and medical providing groups to ensure providers are paid for their services and patients have remote access to providers.

The world in which we live has changed dramatically; there are many technology-based tools available that can improve our health, but are currently stymied as a result of the fee for service structure. There is great hope for healthcare in the future, but for these advances to be fully realized drastic change is needed – and in my view, it starts with providing remote access to providers by solving the fee-for-service barrier.


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  1. Geoff

    While I think you raise many valid points about how the internet can help healthcare, I would say that one would be about as wise to take any kind of advice from the internet on your healthcare as you would from your grandmothers friend. I think that it is a human and definitely an American trait to think that the guy who has “been there and done that” is as qualified of an information source as a medical doctor that went through eight years of schooling in sciences you don’t know exist. That isn’t to say that there is much hubris in the medical community about many approaches to management of illness, however to take things you found on the internet as a reason to make real decisions on the most important part of your life seems rather foolish.

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