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The Patient of the Future

Gienna Shaw, for HealthLeaders Media, September 10, 2009
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The Partnership of Physician and Patient
When Dave deBronkart was diagnosed with stage four kidney cancer in January 2007, he turned to the Internet. "I've always been an online guy, so of course I Googled my butt off," he says. What he found: "Outlook is grim. Prognosis is bleak." But then his doctor told him about an online chat room for kidney cancer patients on the cancer-support site Acor.org, where the patient community provided vital validation about Interleukin, a treatment he already had researched. The potentially toxic cancer treatment is decidedly not for everyone. But deBronkart's doctor said he was qualified for the treatment and he followed his doctor's advice, which he says shrunk his tumors—and saved his life.

Since then, he's become an online advocate for patient engagement and empowerment, and is known to many as e-Patient Dave.

The "e" in e-patient represents a number of descriptors: equipped, enabled, empowered, engaged.

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

deBronkart works late into the night—long after knocking off work at his day job as a software marketer—spreading his patient empowerment message in chat rooms, on blogs, via Twitter, and in other forums. "My message has simplified. I just believe that patients have every right to know what their options are and they have a fundamental right to pursue those options," he says. "My point here is not that doctors can't do the job—it's that patients can help. We actually have the ability to contribute and help in this economically difficult industry."

deBronkart is not angry at the healthcare system; he believes in partnerships between physicians and patients. "I got superb treatment," he says. "I'm an example of somebody who became a patient empowerment advocate without being shafted by the system."

Gienna Shaw


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4 comments on "The Patient of the Future"


Rebecca Roe (4/20/2012 at 10:23 AM)
I love the idea of connected services in relation to patient information, websites, all patient data in one location to be viewed at the same time. But I have a question when the computer service is down, when power surges interrupt the process etc, someone hacks the servers, what happens to the flow of the day? I'm always so afraid that we put all our eggs in one basket and then when things don't work perfectly then we become somewhat paralyzed. We all know how that works in our personal world, but what about as a patient? Do I cancel my appointment and wait for a better day?

Nancy Hughes (4/20/2012 at 9:22 AM)
I was not familiar with PAM until I read this article. It makes perfect sense. Patient-centered care is respect for the patient's personal needs, and the most effective care occurs when the patient's predicaments, rights, and preferences are taken into consideration.

Dan Stone (4/18/2012 at 6:09 PM)
Indeed a great read! Some thoughts for you to consider. Some background first... I provide technologies for home care agencies designed to improve the delivery of care for seniors at home. Our products detect wandering, provide remote vital sign monitoring and even help caregivers understand certain ADL's when a senior is home alone. If something abnormal is detected, an instant email or text is generated and sent to the network of care givers. These tools have proven to increase care plan adherence and patient interactions levels. The results are simple, fewer hospitalizations. I am perplexed however. I have found that home care agencies are resistant to leverage these products. They feel these products facilitate "rationed care" or potentially take away from billable hours at home. My favorite is "you can't replace care with a computer" Indeed that is not the case nor would we ever claim such a silly thing. My question is: How can we encourage professional home care agencies to leverage these devices as a part of their offering? Would you hire a home care agency to look care for you mother that used these tools to help deliver care? What are your thoughts? Feel free to reach out. Dan Stone- Assured Independence / dstone@assuredindependence.com