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Keywords: e-patients, EMRs, PHRs, access to data, health information technology, communication.
Citation: van Leeuwen D. Book review: e-Patients Live Longer. J Participat Med. 2012 Nov 15; 4:e28.
Published: November 15, 2012.
Competing Interests: The author has declared that no competing interests exist.

The book e-Patients Live Longer: The Complete Guide to Managing Health Care Using Technology by Nancy B. Finn, MEd, undersells itself in its subtitle.[1] It is a comprehensive guide to managing health care, including the use of technology. Especially gratifying is that its scope goes beyond the inpatient hospital experience. This easily read Guide addresses the relationship and communication among the health care team (patients and their lay and professional caregivers), safety, information gathering, privacy, cost, and health care’s future. The author sprinkles the Guide with anecdotes of real-life applications of the dilemmas and tensions encountered by patients like us. The “Key Points” at the end of each chapter provide triggers to the most important content. I wanted to scan the key points into one document to reference on my smartphone.

I was drawn first to the section on Personal Health Records (PHRs). I’m so unsatisfied with what’s out there now. No PHR provides certain basic information needed if I or someone I care for has impaired cognition and is being treated in an unexpected venue (eg, an ER): What works or doesn’t work to relieve pain? Response to fear and the unknown? While the Guide doesn’t address this, it does lay out the options and informs a conversation with your team to maximize the benefits accrued from a PHR. I was also looking for something about the variability and challenges finding test results in electronic health records (EHRs). The Guide mentions test results in EHR/PHR content, but doesn’t provide guidance for the e-patient to enhance access to results.

I was also drawn to the section on “Web Resources.” It is tough to be up-to-date in a fast moving medium. There is a nice balance here of resources that were timely when written and resources that will likely be relevant for some time.

The section “How to Manage Your Health Care Costs” lays out insurance options more clearly than I’ve seen elsewhere, but doesn’t address the infuriating lack of transparency about actual cost of consultations, procedures, and tests, or how can costs be managed without this information.

The graphics and illustrations in the Guide are quite informative, but some contain fonts too small for easy reading — correctable in the next edition.

Health care journalism is a tough beat. The current state changes so fast, the subject is bigger than one book, and the audience varies widely in their need and interest. Nancy Finn’s extensive experience shows. A diverse audience can find value here — the novice and the expert; just-in-time information and a comprehensive framework. I suggest reading Ms. Finn’s blog, Healthcare Basics, as a companion. This book offers a taste of her expertise and has helped me already. Share it with your team!


  1. Finn NB. e-Patients Live Longer: The Complete Guide to Managing Health Care Using Technology. Bloomington, IN: iUniverse, Inc.; 2011.

Copyright: © 2012 Danny van Leeuwen. Published here under license by The Journal of Participatory Medicine. Copyright for this article is retained by the author, with first publication rights granted to the Journal of Participatory Medicine. All journal content, except where otherwise noted, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. By virtue of their appearance in this open-access journal, articles are free to use, with proper attribution, in educational and other non-commercial settings.