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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  • Aug 11 2011: I'm guessing that a litigious society is part of the reason in America. The more the doctor reveals and engages the greater perceived risk of saying or doing something that could open them up to a law suit. Same reason we have all those unnecessary medical tests to minimize the litigation risk rather than for any benefit to the patient. Yet having the patient involved as a partner would probably decrease the chance of a court case through more success in treatment and the patient having better understanding throughout the process. They will feel less like a victim if something does go wrong.

    In the public health systems of New Zealand, Australia, and the UK I think it is just a case of insufficient resources. They seem to be systems where resources are carefully rationed and behaviors are rewarded within the system that promote the idea of dealing with as many patients as quickly and cheaply as possible. There isn't time for a lot of dialog and a lot of reviewing of medical history or engagement.

    In general medicine is not about curing a patient it is about treating a patient. I've been told several times that they might never understand what my underlying problem is but through drugs they can control the symptoms and improve my lot in life. For 10 years in 4 countries I've pursued an answer against the systems. I'm still doing self diagnosis and experimentation to figure it out. My wife was given a diagnosis of pre diabetic or perhaps even type 2 borderline and the doctor wanted to perscribe metformin for her. She went on an aggressive diet and exercise program and rigorous self study of sugars and how certain foods affected them for her. End result blood work totally normal. Why the doctor didn't tell her to do diet and exercise - "no one is ever willing to change their lives that much". The patient is the most underutilized resource in healthcare and also food is medicine. Shame no food reps are knocking down doctors doors promoting leafy green vegetables

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