If doctors think about e-patients at all, they may imagine that they are Web-savvy young or middle-aged people. Assertive baby boomers waving pages of print-outs from the Internet send shivers down some doctors’ spines.

That stereotype is rapidly becoming obsolete. Meet our friend Edith. She is a spunky delightful lady in her mid 80s. Edith is barely five feet tall. She has had to contend with some major health problems over the last several years. For one thing, she suffers from congestive heart failure and some other serious heart issues.

Despite her age, Edith is no passive patient. She likes to read as much as she can about her condition and her options. The other day she was visiting and glanced at a copy of the white paper, e-patients: how they can help us heal health care sitting on our coffee table. Her eyes lit up and she started reading.

Edith told us about an interaction with a primary care physician who told her she shouldn’t read so much. Edith fired her immediately. Edith identified herself as an e-patient and asked to borrow the white paper. We gladly lent it to her and await her feedback.

There are millions of people like Edith who are demanding to know more. Increasingly, they are older Americans with chronic health problems. They may be using their computers to email the grandchildren, but they’re also consulting Dr. Google.

Edith would have loved Tom Ferguson. Their zest for life and their commitment to democratization of information would have created an instant bond. You will find our most recent newspaper column about Tom and the white paper at: http://www.peoplespharmacy.com/archives/editorial/cancer_patients_thrive_online.asp

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