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The Center for Studying Health System Change has released another information-packed report, How Engaged Are Consumers in Their Health and Health Care, and Why Does It Matter.   The researchers created a “Patient Activation Measure” and apparently 41% of adults are what we might call e-patients (empowered, equipped, etc.).

Health System Change: Level of Activation for U.S. Adults, 2007

The Center for Studying Health System Change: Level of Activation for U.S. Adults, 2007

The most activated patients tend to be younger, more educated, and have private health insurance. Hispanics are less likely than non-Hispanics to be activated patients. People living with chronic conditions have lower levels of activation as a group, but there are differences among various conditions: People with depression are likely to be less activated; people with cancer are likely to be more activated.

These lines caught my eye:

It is important to note that it is difficult to discern the direction of causality in the observed relationships as the data were collected at a single moment in time. Longitudinal data are needed to determine whether poor health status causes lower activation, or whether low activation and passivity contribute to poorer health. Likely the causality operates in both directions, although low activation resulting from poor health may lead to a vicious cycle that precludes behaviors that could improve health.

That, to me, is a Holy Grail for e-patient/participatory medicine research. This study is important new evidence, helping me to put into context my own observations about how broadband and health status affect health care information searches, but we really do need longitudinal data.