My daughter did something interesting a couple of weeks ago when we went to her pediatrician’s office. We asked for her records, and she told the clerk to make sure she was listed as being an e-Patient. “Check the box for e-Patient” she said. She’s fourteen.
I wondered, if providers actually would do that, what it would mean to them and to her.
I got to thinking about what it would mean, and realized that anything it could mean should apply to any patient, not just a self-declared e-Patient, but hear me out.
Is there some way we can create a movement where patients can say to providers: “I want to be enaged in my care, help me to do so. Give me access to information that I can use to help me stay healthier?”
Think of it like Blue Button, but instead, using a different metaphor: Check the Box… mark me down as an e-Patient. If providers see enough people doing that, they might realize that there is a demand for truly better care. And they aren’t totally dumb. They’ll eventually figure it out that what applies for e-Patients is how they should treat all patients. If we make it that easy for patients to tell their providers they want to be engaged, wouldn’t many just do it?
WOOT! (For those of a certain crusty age, that translates to “Far out!! Right one!” But with more glee to it.)
(For super-crusties, think “23 skedoo!” or “Solid, Jackson!”)
Seriously, though, it’s great that people are moving beyond “Okay, I get it” and are now onto “Okay, how do we do this?” I spoke recently at the annual wellness fair of Rich Products, an employer in the Buffalo area, and they asked for specific, concrete takeaways – good ol “action items.” So I posted this on my personal site:
The Magic Incantation (introducing yourself as an e-patient):
Here’s what I say when I meet a new clinician, to explain my appetite for understanding:
“I’m the kind of patient
who likes to understand
as much as I can
about my health.”
“Could I ask some questions?”
Shazam: you’re an e-patient! Empowered, engaged, equipped, enabled.
And then these starter questions, as the situation requires:
When you or your family encounter a diagnosis, here are some basic questions to use:
- How can I learn about my condition?
- Good websites or pamphlets?
- What are my options?
- How much does this cost? See note below.
- Are there any other options?
- Do other doctors offer anything else?
- What are the risks?
- How strong is the evidence?
- Can I connect with other patients?
Don’t worry, these questions aren’t rude! By asking them you’re being a responsible, activated, engaged patient. That’s great, because throughout medicine one of the most widespread complaints is about patients who aren’t engaged.
Note about the cost question: Caution: most providers don’t know, so don’t be rude. But you sure can ask, and keep asking!
- If they say “We don’t know,” ask “How can I find out? Whom can I ask?”
- If they say “Don’t worry, insurance will cover it,” say “I know, but my insurance is too high – I care about costs. What does this cost?”
Why is this important? Because time after time when I go out and give a speech, I hear people say “This stuff is fine, but patients don’t care: my patients never ask about this.” Yippee: that puts the power in your hands! Ask!
If enough people do it, they might think it’s a revolution!
And be sure to say this great line: “Check the box for e-Patient.”