Some Doctors are Speed Bumps on the e-Patients Road

If you go to enough conferences and industry events, it can sometimes be a bit of an echo chamber, especially if they are things like “Web 2.0” conferences — a bunch of people who pretty much believe the same thing. There’s little dissension and sometimes as a result, little insight.

So it is both interesting, disturbing, and telling to read an article such as this from Crain’s Detroit Business. It describes a panel discussion held in Dearborn Tuesday by the Greater Detroit Area Health Council. The theme of the program was “The Empowered Consumer … Ready or Not?”

The disturbing part of the article comes via the quotes from the doctor on the panel, Paul Harkaway, president of the Huron Valley Physicians Association P.C. He fears a consumer-driven model, comparing consumer-empowered health to the MTV show Pimp My Ride

“The show takes a junky car and makes it look good. Money is spent to make the car look good, but does it run well? Consumerism will fail and fail miserably,” Harkaway said.

He urged consumers to form groups to stand united if they want to make a difference in how health care quality could improve.

Ahh yes, good old unions. They’ve been working so well for the American consumer these days, haven’t they?

Jennifer Sweeney, director for Americans for Quality Health Care, National Partnership for Women and Families, on the other hand, had more insightful comments that resonated with me —

Sweeney said health care providers need to be transparent, accountable, improve quality, lower costs and improve accreditation. And consumers need to be part of the process.

“Why aren’t the consumers at the table?” Sweeney said.

A good question indeed. They’re coming, if only the doctors will allow them to sit down.


Posted in: reforming hc





4 Responses to “Some Doctors are Speed Bumps on the e-Patients Road”

  1. Alan Greene says:

    Tom was fond of Eric Hoffer’s statement, “In a time of drastic change it is the LEARNERS who inherit the future… [while] the LEARNED find themselves beautifully equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.”

    Yes, John, I still frequently meet the speedbumps you mention — other physicians who are dismissive of real value of e-patients roles in healthcare. But when I look at learners, I am very hopeful. The newest crop of physicians, on average, are the most eager to see educated, empowered patients take responsibility for their own health.

    I’m most excited though, by what I call the LEARNING LEARNED — those who have devoted a lifetime to studying health, and who are continuing to learn. Not just adding new facts to old ways of doing things, but learning new perspectives on our new landscape. What an inspiration and force for change! And Tom, of course, was the quintessential LEARNING LEARNED.

  2. Dan Hoch says:

    I like the”speed bump” analogy. As in many rapidly evolving fields, I hear these folks referred to as “dinosaurs” quite frequently. In that context, there is a sense that they simply need to grow old, retire and get out of the game. However, many of them are not actually old, and will be in practice for years to come. They are the folks who have been selected and trained as physicians in the belief that an individual doctor can know enough to practice high-quality, safe and effective medicine. Clearly, some providers, those interested in informatics and technology, understand that the human brain cannot hold enough information to serve us well. Others have come to understand that patients bring an enormous fund of knowledge to the table. If those provider groups are at the table (instead of people like Paul Harkaway) then patients will also be at table and real progress will be made.

  3. John Grohol says:

    I think the positive from something like this is to see docs like Harkaway actually engaging in the dialogue, which is probably something some docs wouldn’t have even done a decade ago. We may not agree with his viewpoint, but perhaps some of these concepts will sink in the more community discussions are had.

  4. Charlie Smith says:

    It distresses me to see both sides of this discussion become polarized. The potential that stands to be realized from the ePatient revolution is the ability to harness the power of the PARTNERSHIP between health providers and patients, interacting on the web, together actually discovering new knowledge, in the vein of David Weinberger’s discussion about how the net is actually “changing the shape of knowledge”. At its best, this partnership, as Tom modeled so well, actually takes health care to a new, higher, better level!

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