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: I think (and others have written) that science and technology have slowly been replacing medical opinion. Talking to the patient can be a nebulous business. Patients might be cranky or spacey, because they're sick. They might be imprecise, or shy, or mentally impaired, or not fluent in English. They can have coinfections or comorbidities that hamper diagnosis. They might have beliefs about medical care that conflict with the practitioner. Medicine would be great if there weren't patients in it! :)

    I think it is also important to mention the risk of medical malpractice lawsuits as a factor in clinicians preferring test results to patients. Technology is a second opinion, science backing up the clinician's diagnosis. Tests are positive or negative -- yes, no. Nothing nebulous about it. (Never mind that tests can be wrong quite often.) You can't sue me for missing your ulcer, the H. pylori test was negative. Blame the test, blame the technician.

    Yes, it's culture. Yes, it's mentoring. And yes, the more we vote with our feet (I have recently "fired" a new PCP because of the impersonal way in which my first appointment was handled), and block the door (LOVED that story), and the more we insist on a partnership with our clinicians, the more we will contribute to returning the art of medicine back to its science.

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