In the Future, Patients Are Engaged And Involved

You often hear about the importance of working closely with suppliers to optimize the supply chain. What is equally important, and perhaps more difficult, is working with customers. When you collaborate with your customers, rather than simply try to sell them products or services, they can provide valuable insights, and help you to eliminate waste and produce greater value

That kind of partnership with customers is the future of healthcare, according to an intriguing article from Health Leaders magazine entitled “The Patient of the Future.”

The article, by Gienna Shaw, focuses on what will likely be the much greater use of technology in the future. But the key point Shaw makes is that technology gives patients much greater access to information – which transforms them.

"A whole bunch of improvements that have happened over the past 30 years with IT in other industries are going to evolve in healthcare and that will result in transformation as to how the whole process will work," says Dave deBronkart, an advocate for patient engagement and empowerment and communication as well as patient-caregiver collaboration…

"The major change that's going to happen is about people getting their hands on their own medical data and their data traveling with them, rather than being bottled up inside a particular hospital," deBronkart says…

Effective e-patients are involved in their own health in a number of ways, deBronkart says:

  • They look at their medical records online
  • They may share medical records with family and friends who know medicine
  • They use e-mail to correspond with their doctors
  • They are active partners with the various physicians involved in their care
  • They're often active in patient communities
  • They may become active researchers

The article notes resistance from doctors, particularly because this trend inevitably produces some patients who try to tell the doctor how to do his or her job. But it also includes mention of some doctors who believe they should embrace the trend.

Ken Davis, MD, doesn't wait for his patients to come to him with their research—he helps them gather it. At the end of an appointment, the Conroe, TX-based physician brings his patient out into the hallway to a computer with Internet access. He shows her how to use MedScape and gives her a quick tutorial on how to find more information about the diagnosis. Taking a few minutes to do that saves him time, he says. A patient will come to the next appointment better informed and ready to work in partnership with the physician.

"You can engage patients with technology instead of it being a barrier," Davis says. "You can use technology to your advantage or you can get real upset because the patient went ahead and got a second opinion from the Internet. Doctors just have to get over themselves."

I believe movement toward this vision of the future will occur in fits and starts, unevenly throughout the country. But I believe it to be correct.

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