The Era of the Internet Empowered Patient

Feb 16, 2011   //   by admin   //   Blog  //  No Comments

According to a recent blog post by Kevin Pho, MD, the use of the internet for health information is here to stay for the long haul. This, I believe is a good thing, because patients are obtaining knowledge about their condition and are feeling empowered to ask questions to physicians, forcing doctors to put more effort into finding potential causes of symptoms and the right treatments.

According to a report from the National Business Group on Health (NBGH) brought to my attention in a post by Jane Sarasohn-Kahn people are increasingly getting more involved in their own care. 8 in 10 employees are seeking information about symptoms prior to a visit to the doctor and 7 in 10 bringing a list of questions to the doctor’s visit. Most people polled, however, indicate that the information available is too complex for the average person to understand.

As Evan Falchuk rightfully points out, at the end of the day it is the doctor’s judgment, not the technology, that is key for successfully treating a person’s condition. And patients with relevant online health information can help improve that judgment. For example, perhaps if a patient proactively brings up a particular clinical trial during a discussion with the doctor, the physician may end up regarding it as the appropriate treatment for that person, since clinical trials are in essence new treatments being tested, as exemplified in a post by Andrew Schorr.

A publication by Matthew Holt describes a joint venture between GE and Intel to create products that will allow remote monitoring and physician interaction from home. Nevertheless, because healthcare professionals will still be extremely busy people and will be hard for them to devote much time to any particular patient, patients should try to become more informed about their condition and participate more in their own care.

To me, the value of empowering the care receiver with relevant information is evident. More than once, during a doctor’s visit, I have brought up to the physician’s attention an alternative potential cause to symptoms based on internet research, and upon further consideration, the physician concluded that the alternative made more sense than his original diagnosis.

As healthcare providers become more open-minded and consider patient’s research, better treatments will be reached and all sides will be more satisfied with the outcomes.