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Keywords: Physician-patient communication, patient-physician communication, patient engagement, participatory medicine, health data.
Citation: Johnson R. An e-patient’s frustration. J Participat Med. 2012 Aug 30; 4:e19.
Published: August 30, 2012.
Competing Interests: The author has declared that no competing interests exist.

To the Editors:

John Krueger’s article, “The Patient Will See You Now,” is spot on. A recent encounter with my health care provider confirmed what is already known about our health care system. My cholesterol levels have always been through the roof, and I have a family history of heart disease. Never have any of my annual physicals produced any course of treatment to effect changes in my lipid profile. I always got the same notice from my physicians: “Your cholesterol is high.”

Recently I took control of my diet, specifically to address the high cholesterol levels. I eliminated meats and dairy from my diet, with the understanding I gathered through my own research that ALL meats a dairy contain saturated fats and cholesterol. I increased plant-based foods, beans, and fruits. When I informed my doctor that I was changing to a plant-based diet, he asked me, “What is that?” Strike one.

As a self-controlled experiment and with no exercise, and only a diet change, in the course of four months I lost 25 pounds of fat off my stomach, my waist went from 43 inches to 37 inches (and still getting smaller), my HDL went from 38 to 60 and my LDL went from 205 to 109. My blood pressure went from 190/85 to 117/70. Remember, this was achieved by my own diagnosis, research, and execution.

Then I compiled my blood test results from 1988 to present, to see if a trending analysis would reveal any issues that I should be concerned about. Indeed, my cholesterol levels were my main concern. Since this type of data was never presented to me at any doctor’s appointment, I thought that doing the work myself and presenting this to my physician would help my physician better understand my physical history. I forwarded the data to my physician via email and his response was, “… If you have further questions or concerns please make an appt. to discuss as I have limited time for ongoing email due to my schedule….” Strike two.

Now, for me to make an appointment to see my physician would require a four to six week wait. Seems email interaction would be a preferred method to efficiently communicate with a known patient. Bottom line for me, from a patient perspective, is if I do the research, provide a self-diagnosis, prepare a treatment plan that works and produces measurable result, then what am I paying for? Strike three.

Seems the business aspect of health care delivery has taken control. When I sit with my physician during the mandated 15-minute allotted time for any appointment and speak with him as he is filling in all sorts of computer data entry fields, I wonder how much of what I’m telling him is really being heard.

Copyright: © 2012 Roger Johnson. 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.