E-patients’ Role in Healthcare Social Media: Do Doctors Hate Blogs?

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Should epatients be behind a fence?

Pew finds 61% of patients are e-patients, not content with the back of the bus

Over the last few years, the internet has changed the way that healthcare consumers (patients) interact with providers and manage their own medical care. A Pew survey showed that 61% of patients look online for healthcare information. Sixty percent of them access social media** related to health.  Judging by the response to the recent post about message boards, our readers agree. 

The buzz about how healthcare social media (HCSM) will impact healthcare innovation is getting too loud to ignore. However, there are those who don’t hear it because they have their fingers in their ears. They are saying, “No. Patients belong in the back of the information bus. We will tell you what you need to know.”

When I meet doctors who denigrate the internet, blogging, and e-patients, I usually raise one eyebrow behind my glasses and decline to engage in an argument. It is not worthwhile: someone who already sees patients as less capable of handling information is not going to be influenced by the opinion of a patient.

Do some doctors think that being a patient impairs our thinking?

This week I watched a video about Rheumatoid Arthritis on CRM Healthcare featuring two doctors discussing issues related to RA diagnosis. Dr. Dorothy Sherwood declared, “Keeping them off the internet is a very important thing to do.” I’ve met doctors who hold that view, but never heard one declare it publicly.

Dr. Sherwood’s statement reveals more than a lack of understanding of Web 2.0. It is typical of what patients tell me they receive from doctors: a superior attitude which makes genuine communication difficult. It is as if patients must learn their place, stay in their place, and mind their manners. Of course there are blessed exceptions; however too often, doctors see patients as simple-minded and uneducable because of the sheer fact that they are patients.

Believing that patients are necessarily incapable of reading and processing information is like believing that women are not smart enough to be doctors. I’ll bet she’s glad we don’t do that anymore.  Do some doctors want to keep patients barefoot and stupid?

More symptoms that e-patients’ opinions are not highly respected

A couple of months ago, I was exchanging emails with a manager on a prominent healthcare website. I was asked whether I could recommend a blog. Since the person did not know I had a blog, I recommended my own. Within five minutes, a reply came, “No thank you. We need an expert.” I am not complaining that my blog was not respected: my blog was never considered. In those brief moments, the person did not have time to look over my blog and reject it. My blog was rejected out of hand because it is written by a patient.

Another time, I commented on a post and left a reference to an article on my blog. Within minutes, there was a reply which referred to my blog this way: “It is nice that you found a way to tell your story.” I had not noticed that the person was a doctor until then. Of course, I wished I could correct the misperception that the RA Warrior website was just a “nice way to tell my story.” One of my kids said I ought to have said this: “Was my link broken? You did not get to see my website?”

Want to see how one physician views patients who consult Dr. Google first? Try this doctor’s blog for Time.com. Warning:  it is a little harsh.

E-patients and doctors could be a healthier team

Wouldn’t it be best for both parties if doctors and patients were on the same side? Don’t we share the same goals? I think if God could come to earth to speak to us man to man, then a doctor can have a conversation with a patient, respecting him as a thoughtful human being.

No doctor has the time or the ability to give a patient all of the information that is needed to manage living with Rheumatoid Arthritis or any other disease. No doctor even knows all of the information that is required. It should not be threatening to doctors that people realize this fact.

**Social media refers to websites which allow user participation like blogs or Facebook, etc. This is the second generation of internet and therefore called “Web 2.0.”

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Kelly Young. All rights reserved.

This entry was posted on Friday, January 15th, 2010 at 7:02 am and is filed under Don't miss this!. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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