TED Conversations

e-Patient Dave deBronkart

Change Advocate for Participatory Medicine / Let Patients Help, Society for Participatory Medicine


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"WHY is the patient the most under-used resource in healthcare?? How did that happen?" (Follow-up to LIVE TED Conversation July 27)

"e-Patient Dave" deBronkart is an advocate for patients being "E": empowered, engaged in their care, equipped, enabled, educated, etc. As described in his talk from TEDx Maastricht, he beat a near-fatal cancer, supplementing his great medical care by using the internet in every way possible.

Today, as blog manager and volunteer co-chair of the Society for Participatory Medicine, he has studied the social, technical and sometimes political factors that make healthcare ignore the potential of patients contributing to their care.

In his TEDTalk, he quotes senior physicians who have said for decades that patients are the most under-utilized resource in healthcare.

Why is that? How did it get to be that way? Is change valid? Why now, and not 20 years ago? And what can we do about it?

Watch the talk, and come back to discuss. *Your family* will be affected someday.

ADMIN EDIT: e-Patient Dave has requested that we keep this conversation open for 1 week. After 2pm ET July 27, he will periodically check in to answer questions and respond to comments.

Topics: Healthcare

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  • Jul 28 2011: Hi Ragna, in my opinion Patient Empowerment comes with a kind of responsability. Social Media can be very cruel in killing reputations. Accusing your doctor or even worse threaten her/him is not the direction that strikes my mind when it comes to improve healthcare. As sad as it is, some people even need to be taught that one should not beat up healthcare professionals.
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      Jul 28 2011: Hi Remco - agreed, it doesn't accomplish much to trash someone's reputation in social media. Throughout my case (while I was apparently dying) and then as I got into healthcare, the question that I kept asking has been: "What could be said that would make any difference?"

      I expect we'll go through a process of maturing. Many years ago as people got online for the first time, a lot of people were fooled, thinking "If it's on the internet, it must be true." And people fell for the most idiotic email scams. Today most people have outgrown that as they learned to be safer.

      In the same way, I anticipate that people will learn to be careful about reading online reputation comments. Reputation IS important - it's extremely important in marketplaces like eBay and Amazon - but until you get a large number of comments about a merchant, it doesn't mean much. And as you probably know, eBay and Amazon work hard to get buyers to comment on the sellers. A rating site like Yelp has no way to do that.

      Here's an idea: perhaps "feedback" starts with CHOOSING your provider responsibly. If you meet with him/her and decide to "get married," I would hope it's partly because you communicate well. Then, if something goes wrong, you can talk about it, as in any good relationship.

      But if someone feels passive and disempowered when they CHOOSE a doctor, I bet it increases the chances they'll respond ineffectively and poorly when things go wrong.


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