Partnering with Patients – From Theory to Practice: #HealthcareTransformers

Three continents. Five patients. Three conferences.

Dramatic change is occurring in healthcare where patients, “the true trans­formers in care”, are changing the playing field, and redefining how they want to engage and affect change.

The Walking Gallery in Grantsville, MD.

The Society for Participatory Medicine is a non-profit organization devoted to promoting the concept of participatory medicine, a movement in which networked patients shift from being mere passengers to responsible drivers of their health, and in which providers encourage and value them as full partners.

The Society for Participatory Medicine created a patient travel scholarship in 2012 to help support the attendance of patients at health conferences to help move the needle in advancing participatory medicine.

Last month, five patients were awarded the opportunity to attend the following conferences:

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Most Recent

A Turing test for diagnosis: BMJ evaluates online symptom checkers; good Globe article

A new article in the BMJ this week reports on a good, clever evaluation of 29 online symptom checkers, showing that some have a clue and some don’t. I love it; in my view the bottom line is “Some are better than nothing, none is near perfect, and some are junk. Learn, but as with all things online, be careful.”

The method used (described below) is clever: it’s not unlike the famous Turing test (Wikipedia), which examines whether you can tell the difference between a computer and a real person. (Answer: real doctors, while far from perfect, are a lot better than today’s websites.)

Today’s Boston Globe has a good front page article by Felice Freyer about it. SPM co-founder Susannah Fox, currently Chief Technology Officer at HHS, is quoted, as am I – it’s great to see participatory perspectives sought out by the Globe!

Method: evaluate websites the way we evaluate docs

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Monthly introduction to e-Patients.net

This is our monthly introduction to e-Patients.net, blog of the Society for Participatory Medicine. Follow the Society on Twitter (@S4PM), Facebook, and LinkedIn.  Here’s how to become a Society member, individual or corporate.

Our publications:

“Participatory Medicine is a movement in which networked patients shift from being mere passengers to responsible drivers of their health, and in which providers encourage and value them as full partners.”

Additional resources:

Contact us:


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Conference Organizers to Affected Patients: “Go Fund Yourself”!

SPM member MaryAnne Sterling is Co-founder of tech startup Connected Health Resources – she’s a healthcare transformer and person-centered care activist whose motto is: no family caregiver left behind. A recent experience, what she calls her “go fund yourself” moment, is captured in this guest post.

maryanne sterling photo

MaryAnne Sterling

During the Holidays, I carry on a time-honored tradition in my family: baking cookies. Over the years, I’ve gotten into the habit of double-checking my recipe once all of the ingredients are in, to make sure I haven’t forgotten anything. A single missing ingredient will result in disastrous cookies. My husband, who knows how meticulous I am, teases me about this – to which I typically respond “old habits die hard”.

I use this same analogy to describe the missing ingredient at healthcare conferences around the country – the patient. And the family caregivers who comprise the backbone of our healthcare system. These critical components of the care team are not even invited to participate in discussions that are about THEM. In fact, a visit to the websites of these events, including those created to tackle the topic of “patient engagement,” reveals a list of distinguished speakers, all with advanced degrees, but few with a patient-level view of a disease or chronic condition.

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No Rhyme or Reason

HealthCareCosts (1)We have read and heard a lot about the disparities in the cost of care from one hospital or clinic to another. We have read and heard a lot of grumbling about the uneven availability of health care services in this country. Many of us have been outraged to learn that Pharma companies can charge whatever they want for drugs that they have developed  because our elected representatives passed legislation that provides Pharma with this discretionary power.

These same laws allow Pharma to provide a percentage of the direct cost of the medications to doctors. Although a mandate in the Affordable Care Act requires information on Pharma payments to physicians be made public via the CMS Open Payments online database, this is little consolation to thousands of patients who bear the brunt of this inequality in our payment system.

Because our system is so dysfunctional and our cost of care so elevated, there are daily instances of patients declaring bankruptcy because they cannot afford their prescription drug costs. There are also too many situations where patients are dying prematurely because they simply cannot afford to obtain the medications that could restore their health.

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On Making Patient Reviews of Physicians More Useful

I recently hosted a Google Hangout on Air entitled Patient Reviews of Physicians: The Wisdom of the Crowd? (presented by The Harlow Group LLC in association with The Society for Participatory Medicine).

I spoke with Niam Yaraghi (Center for Technology Innovation, The Brookings Institution) and Casey Quinlan (Mighty Casey Media) following their interesting back-and-forth online on the question of whether and how patient reviews of physicians can add value. Please take a look at the posts that preceded the hangout. Here are the initial post and reaction: Niam’s post and Casey’s post – as well as Niam’s follow up post and Casey’s follow up post.

Please feel free to watch the Hangout on Air. Further below, I’ve shared a version of my introduction to the hangout, as well as some of the takeaways suggested by Niam and Casey (and taken away by me). We need your help refining these takeaways in the comments.

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SPM applauds King v Burwell – “making healthcare accessible & participatory for all”

SPM handshake logo imageThe Society for Participatory Medicine believes that an effective healthcare system is a collaborative one, where care providers and the patients and families they care for work together toward the best possible health outcomes. The importance of this partnership cannot be overstated; its supporters range from the Institute of Medicine to the World Health Organization, echoing the words of visionary physicians like our movement’s founder “Doc Tom” Ferguson and health data visionary Warner Slack MD, a colleague of SPM founders, who said patients are “the most under-used resource” in the healthcare system.

Anything that restricts families’ access to that system harms healthcare, not to mention children, adults, and elders in their time of need. Preventing this societal harm – by ensuring access to care – was the foundational purpose of the Affordable Care Act … more correctly known, in fact, as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). Yet twice opponents of this act have sought to defeat it.

In yesterday’s King v Burwell decision the US Supreme Court has cleared the way for PPACA’s promise to be fully delivered to the American people. SPM applauds this ruling, and looks forward to advancing the national effort to make healthcare affordable, accessible, understandable, and — most importantly — participatory for all Americans.

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HB post header for HOA

Tune in for Patient Reviews of Physicians: The Wisdom of the Crowd?

Patient Reviews of Physicians: The Wisdom of the Crowd?
Google Hangout On Air Hosted by David Harlow with Niam Yaraghi and Casey Quinlan
Wed, Jun 24, 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM ET

Presented by David Harlow (aka HealthBlawg) in association with The Society for Participatory Medicine.

I am hosting a conversation with Niam Yaraghi (Center for Technology Innovation, The Brookings Institution) and Casey Quinlan (Mighty Casey Media) following their interesting back-and-forth online on the question of whether and how patient reviews of physicians can add value. We will consider the old saw that healthcare is unique and can’t be dealt with in the same way as other products and services, and explore productive ways forward around recognizing the patient voice in evaluating health care providers.

Please read Niam’s and Casey’s posts before tuning in: Niam’s post and Casey’s post – as well as Niam’s follow up post and Casey’s follow up post.

You should follow all three of us on Twitter: @healthblawg, @niamyaraghi and @mightycasey.

See you on the 24th. Please come prepared to join the conversation by posting comments and questions on the feed – and submit some in advance using the Q&A function. We will address them as time permits.

Join us for what promises to be a very interesting Google Hangout On Air. (Please RSVP on the Hangout page.) It will be archived for later viewing as well.

Please share this information with anyone who you may think would be interested.

David Harlow is a health care lawyer and consultant at The Harlow Group LLC, and chairs the Society for Participatory Medicine’s public policy committee. Check out his home blog, HealthBlawg, where a version of this post first appeared. You should follow him on Twitter: @healthblawg.

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The Role of Dignity in Health Care

Every patient wants to be treated with dignity.  However, when you are sitting in a doctor’s exam room, holding together a hospital gown that somehow does not want to completely fit around you, or close properly, it is difficult to feel that you have any dignity.  When the doctor comes into the room and barely listens to you or looks at you, while he or she is checking your health record on the computer, it also feels as though you do not have much dignity.  When the doctor explains the treatment options for your problem and does not take the time to listen to you analyze your issues, a culture of dignity is missing from this interaction.

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Guest Post by Matthew Katz, MD: E-Patients Deserve E-Doctors

Dr Katz1Matthew S. Katz, MD, is the Medical Director of Radiation Oncology at Lowell General Hospital and a lifetime member of S4PM. He is former Chair of Communications Committee for the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) and external advisor for Mayo Clinic’s Center for Social Media. He is co-moderator of the #radonc journal club and serves on committees for the American Society of Clinical Oncology and Massachusetts Medical Society. His main areas of interest are cancer care, patient education and health empowerment.

E-Patients Deserve E-Doctors: Addressing the Needs of Both to Make Health Care Better for Everyone

Everyone deserves a chance to be healthy. Physicians, of course, focus on helping patients. Unfortunately, I often see patients’ frustrations with the health care system itself directed toward doctors.

Doctors are under increasing pressures on multiple fronts. Yes, we’re imperfect, but making physicians the primary focus of patient anger will not solve problems we all face as humans who will, at some point, need health care. (Note: I’m using doctors as an example for this piece, but my observations apply to all health care professionals.)

Patients need doctors. Doctors need patients. Let’s find a way to value both.

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“Taxpayers need better access”: Last day to comment to CMS on #NoMUwithoutMe

Screen capture of Palm Beach Post article

Click to read full text

Today (11:59pm ET) is the deadline for public comments on the proposed rollback of “Meaningful Use 2″ regulations for patient access to their medical records. SPM feels that this is a major issue for enabling patient-provider partnerships; as SPM co-chair Dr. Danny Sands often says, “How can patients participate if they can’t see what I see??”

SPM’s action page is here, and the blog post by SPM health policy chair, attorney David Harlow, is here. You can speak up – and should! This is open to citizens – you don’t have to be as erudite as policy experts.

I (and I imagine most of SPM) feels that the issues are common sense, not rocket science. For instance, John Boden of ElderIssues LLC has corresponded with me from time to time, and has recently sent me some editorials from the Palm Beach Post, like the one at left: Taxpayers need better access to health records. Excerpt:

Have you looked up your medical records using your computer or smartphone yet?

Why not? You should. If you’re a taxpayer, you’ve paid for the right to do this. You’ve paid a lot.

A decade ago, the Bush administration hired Rand Corp. scholars to research how much could be saved if the medical system ditched paper charts and went digital. … Their study envisioned newly empowered patients taking charge of their chronic diseases with the help of seamless information technology, no longer enduring duplicative tests — or worse, mistakes — because their doctors didn’t talk to each other. …

Back in Washington, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services finds itself at a crossroads. Harried doctors and hospitals have demanded a weakening of the “meaningful use” patient-access standard. How low would it go? The agency would greenlight stimulus payments to hospitals so long as a single patient — just one — successfully looked at his or her digital medical record. The existing standard is an already low 5 percent.

That would pretty well wipe out any compelling business reason for tech companies to create consumer-focused patient portals.

Note that although arguments about health policy often split along philosophical or party lines, John Boden is not your stereotypical “left-wing Commie pinko” (as it used to be called when I was young…)  He’s a Vietnam combat veteran (helicopter pilot), is deeply involved in helping people manage elder care in the retiree-heavy state of Florida, and he correctly ties the whole idea to the Bush administration’s Rand Corp report that documented the projected savings.

In addition to the above links, our original post was “No MU without ME”: join the campaign to fight health data hiding. And to sum it up concisely and clearly, here’s SPM member Casey Quinlan’s excellent cartoon edition – clear, simple, yet accurate.

bitstrips image

(c) Mighty Casey Media | Creative Commons 4.0 Non-Commercial

Taxpayer-patients do deserve good, robust, easy to use access. Please do comment! If you want, you can paste in a link. Again, the deadline is 11:59pm ET today (Monday June 15).

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