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What the "E" in E-Patient Really Means

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   May 28, 2013

Patients today are empowered, engaged, equipped, and enabled. Healthcare providers should respond, and should help patients with another important "e": expectations.

By now, you've probably heard of e-patients. But it means much more than "electronic patients."

"Our culture assumes doctors know everything and patients can't possibly add anything useful," writes Dave deBronkart, better known as "e-Patient Dave," in his new e-book, Let Patients Help!, a quick but enlightening read that will inform you that the "e" also means empowered, engaged, equipped, and enabled. "Today some add educated, expert, and anything else 'e,'" deBronkart writes.

I've made a career out of documenting the empowering effects of technology. In the 1980s, among other things, personal computers were a way to engage students of all ages through the interactivity of educational software. In the 1990s, the Internet equipped us to get the most current data. In the 2000s, Web services enabled us to build "digital nervous systems" that automated the publication of that data, and our ability to subscribe to updates through the power of technologies such as RSS and search technologies such as Google.

But here in the 2010s, it's ironic that the most personal of data we generate – that about our health – remains locked in healthcare's vaults for a variety of reasons. Some of this is just technological inertia. Some electronic healthcare record software bears a strong resemblance to 1990s-style enterprise resource planning (ERP) software designed to manufacture widgets. (That's changing, too, but it's a topic for another column.)


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Scott Mace is the former senior technology editor for HealthLeaders Media. He is now the senior editor, custom content at H3.Group.

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