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We’re partnering to support The Big Heist!

The Society of Participatory Medicine (SPM) is excited to announce that we’re partnering with The Big Heist to accelerate building a Health 3.0 world, where patients actively participate and are empowered to control and improve their care.

The Big Heist will be a feature film—healthcare’s The Big Short + The Daily Show + Super Size Me. It will be a satirical, follow-the-money film on the destruction caused by healthcare’s status quo… and the coming redemption. It’s a story of hope, built on the stories of those fixing it from the ground up.

We all know healthcare is broken, but most don’t know the enormous collateral damage it’s caused. From stagnant wages to public education budgets, decades of hyper-inflating healthcare costs has taken nearly every corner and group in our society. The Big Heist will make these connections in an entertaining and accessible way, then create hope by showing real-life solutions in action from around the country, across the political spectrum, and in the public and private sector.

The first stage of our partnership is to support The Big Heist’s crowd-funding campaign. They’ve created two ways to do this through a special link for anyone in the SPM ecosystem:

  • For new SPM members – Backers of this perk will receive a one year membership to SPM and a digital download of “The Big Heist” when released. SPM, which is a 501c3 non-profit organization, will receive 85% of the proceeds contributed and the remainder will go towards the film. Look for the perk with the SPM logo.
  • For anyone in the SPM ecosystem – SPM will receive 50% of the proceeds from anyone in the SPM ecosystem that backs any other crowd-fund perk.
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Last call: Vote for patient activists (and more) at Health 2.0 next week

Health2con patient finalists (click to read nominee profiles)

Click to go read the profiles of the ten nominees; to vote, see the text of this blog post

In July we invited you to vote on a large group of patient activists, to select finalists in Health 2.0 conference’s tenth annual conference:

Health 2.0: first conference to offer Patient Activist awards. Vote!

What a gathering this will be: travel expenses for the TWENTY FINALISTS are being paid by the Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation – an unprecedented move, as far as I know – real recognition of the authentic value of patient voices.

gordon-betty-moore-foundation-logoThe conference starts Sunday, so voting on the ten finalists is nearing its end.  Please go here to read about the finalists (some of whom are completely new names, to me), then go to the SurveyMonkey ballot and vote!





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e-Patient alert: “Are sites like WebMD healthful?” Dive in on NYTimes debate

Thanks to @SusanCarr, the highly patient-centered editor of Patient Safety & Quality Healthcare, for this tipoff this morning. I only have time right now to post this & run out the door. Click the image to visit the piece on the Times site, but first, consider my questions below.

NYTimes medical websites

NYTimes 2

My initial thoughts – but I haven’t had time to read the piece yet:

  • It’s a valid question, which we’ve been talking about here for years. 
  • An inside page of the feature (see screen capture, right) asks a really wrong-headed question: “Does the internet add to patients’ knowledge or dangerously misinform them?” OR?? That’s exactly like asking whether email is fast “or” has scammers.
  • Who gets to say whether a site proved useful to the patient?
  • Why the hell were no e-patients among the sources interviewed? (See the red boxes in the top image.)

Besides, given the well documented giant cracks in the research and peer review processes, we could ask the same question about peer reviewed literature:

Does “authoritative” peer reviewed literature add to doctors’ knowledge, or dangerously misinform them? 

For compelling counterpoints, see the patient comments on our Google Mug post last December.)

Please, all, dive in, read, and comment. So many assumptions are hidden behind that headline’s question, not to mention their choice of whom to interview.


Sips with the Society: SPM Receptions at Health 2.0 and Connected Health Summit

As the sweet days of summer 2016 start to wane, it’s time to make plans to attend key fall conferences. This year, the Society for Participatory Medicine is hosting Sips With The Society – meet and great receptions at Health 2.0 in Santa Clara and the Connected Health Symposium in Boston.

If you’re attending either event, please come on down to help spread the word about SPM. Serve as a Society spokesperson to inform about SPM and to recruit new members. If you want to attend a conference and learn about Health Care Technology and Innovation and network, see below for reduced or waived registration costs. Live nearby and not attending? Join a SIPS reception and raise your voice (and your glass) for SPM!

Health 2.0 takes place September 25 to 28 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in California. Patients 2.0, run by patients for patients, is Sunday, Sept. 25 at 2:00 pm. Join SPM Past President Sarah Krug for another great Patients 2.0 session. Patient advocates and carers can apply for free Patients 2.0 + Health 2.0 registration here. Screen Shot 2016-08-23 at 8.34.04 AM

Sips with the Society SPM Reception will be at the Santa Clara Hyatt Regency on Tuesday, Sept. 27 at 7:00 pm. Join us at the Evolution Bar off the Hyatt Lobby to meet SPM colleagues, and enjoy some drink and food. Bay Area members not attending the conference welcome! Bring prospective members! Have questions? Want to attend and share costs of lodging with a fellow SPMer?
Please contact Danny van Leeuwen ( or Sue Woods (

Connected Health Symposium returns to Boston’s Seaport World Trade Center on October 20-21. Discount registration is available for the Connected Health Summit. Use SPMDiscount when registering. Screen Shot 2016-08-23 at 8.32.18 AM

Sips with the Society SPM Reception
will be in the Tamo Loft of the Seaport Hotel on October 20 at 7:00 pm. Greater Boston members (and non-members!) please join us for a fun networking and SPM promotion opportunity. SPM will have a table at the conference. If you have any questions or would like to help staff our Society table, please contact Sue Woods

We look forward to seeing members and members-to-be this fall, and to toast the Society!

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OpenNotes hits TEN MILLION patient level

OpenNotes healthcare IT news screen captureAs regular readers know, for years we’ve been blogging here about OpenNotes, in which patients and their designated caregivers can read every word their clinicians write, so they can be more informed. The OpenNotes tagline, “Doctors and patients on the same page,” is no joke: I was one of the subjects in the study, and I’ve blogged about visits with and without OpenNotes. With is better.

I mean, would you hold any other kind of important meeting in life with no access to the records of what happened, what was decided, and who’s going to do what??
read more…


How can we cope with uncertainty?

Uncertainty in medicineWe’ve written often about uncertainty, which is a recurring challenge in medicine and especially in participatory medicine, where issues of relationship and decisions are core.

Some doctors have told me they were trained to display certainty even when things aren’t sure, and many patients (in my experience) want certainty about their diagnoses, or at least want their clinicians to act confidently.

But our board member Peggy Zuckerman also serves on the patient engagement committee of our “cousin” the Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine, and as she said on NBC last year, diagnosis ain’t always easy. And when things don’t work out well, patients can feel wronged and clinicians can be blamed.

I wonder, what if we could all accept uncertainty and cope with it together?

An article on uncertainty last month in The Skeptic discusses the reality. On Facebook our board member Peter Elias MD called it “a fine and pretty comprehensive review of how much uncertainty there is in medicine.” Here’s the first part, with some added returns for easier reading: read more…

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e-Patients as journal authors: Sean Ahrens self-experiment published in a major journal

Sean Ahrens article in American Journal of Gastroenterology

We’d love to start a list of other patient-authored papers and posters – let us know in the comments! We know of Dana M. Lewis & Scott Leibrand’s poster about #OpenAPS in June – who else??

We’ve written before about e-patient Sean Ahrens and the Crohnology community he started.  In my view the most important post of the series was four years ago: Crossing a threshold: the e-Patient movement enters wave 2. That post linked to an article in Fast Company (a business magazine!) about Sean.

Now, could this be wave 3? We’re starting to see e-patients as authors in medical journals. That is a culture change, folks.

In this case it’s not just an opinion piece – Sean devised and conducted an experiment on himself! Here’s his Facebook post the other day on it:

So I think this is kind of big news: I just got published (in print) in a major medical journal, the American Journal of Gastroenterology (AJG)!

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Cleo Kordomenos: How My Opinion on Online Health Communities Changed

Cleo KordomenosThis is a guest blog post by Cleo Kordomenos. Cleo was my student in the New Media and Health Communication class I taught at TCNJ. More about the class is shared in this post. 

Cleo Kordomenos is a Senior Communication Studies student at The College of New Jersey with a concentration in Health Communication and a minor in Public Health. After completing her undergraduate degree, she plans to pursue a Master’s in Public Health, specializing in Health Policy and Management. Currently, she is working at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia doing research for CHOP’s Center for Injury Research and Prevention. Outside the classroom and the office, you can find her enjoying time with her family and friends by the beach, hiking, biking, and cooking.

I entered my New Media and Health Communication course at The College of New Jersey opposed to the idea of online health communities as means of providing patient-centered care to individuals. You would think that as a 21-year-old, growing up immersed in technology, I would welcome the idea of utilizing the internet to create online communities.

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“Unmarried teens would jump off bridges”: NY Times on suppression of home tests

A large part of the Society for Participatory Medicine’s work is culture change, and that requires pointing to the cultural roots of today’s situation, so that well-meaning people today can understand how we got here, and how absurd today will look in the future. I’ve rarely seen a better example than in today’s New York Times op-ed by Pagan Kennedy, who is known (among many other things) for her writings about world-changing inventions.

As the screen capture at right suggests, the underlying myth was “Patients can’t handle the truth.” It exactly echoes physician sentiment about patient access to medical records via OpenNotes, as we’ve often written.

But “knowledge is power,” as Sir Francis Bacon said centuries ago, as SPM co-chair Dr. Danny Sands often cites in his speeches. And lo and behold, some patients want knowledge and the power it brings.

read more…

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Teaching Health Communication with Participatory Medicine Highlights

IleanaBalcuHeadshotIn the Spring of 2016 I had the opportunity to teach the course New Media and Health Communication for an undergraduate class at The College of New Jersey. The class, designed by Dr. Yifeng Hu, already included an introduction to participatory medicine and patient participation in their own healthcare.

With the help of numerous colleagues from the Society for Participatory Medicine, I added a few more touches to the course:

  • Dr. Peter Elias was a guest speaker and framed our course with examples from his family medicine practice. He designed an OpenNotes variation before the concept had a name. My students loved his openness to answer questions and we kept bringing up examples of his presentation throughout the course.
  • E-Patient Dave walked us through the newest communication tools and patients and health professionals promoting the patient/physician partnership.
  • Regina Holliday told us her life story and inspired us all to always help others, to improve healthcare and to use our creativity to achieve goals. The course was part of the Arts and Communication Studies School at the college and Regina is the perfect example of how arts can be an effective maybe a most effective communication tool.
  • Many others SPM-ers accepted to be interviewed by my students and shared details of working in healthcare communications on either the provider or the patient side: Peggy Zuckerman, Danny Sands MD, Kathy Kastner, Alan Spiro, MD, Geri Baumblatt, Casey Quinlan, Danny van Leeuwen, Cheryl Greene, Rahlyn Gossen,  Stuart Grande, Jack Whelan, Scott Strange, Ross Martin, MD, and one more time: Peter Elias, MD and Regina Holliday.

The guest speakers and being able to interview health professionals were the highlights of my students’ class and I can’t thank all of you enough for your generosity! SPM rocks!

I could not have taught this course without the incredible knowledge and information sharing that happens in the SPM community. I am thanking everyone for sharing articles, information and ideas. In the following days I will share two posts written by two of my students: Cleo Kordomenos and Emma Streckenbein.

Finally, it was such a pleasure to interact with my students. They listened, learned, shared and were moved by every story they heard. They wanted to help and were thrilled to hear stories of the potential of new media to improve health communication. A number of them already had interactions with the healthcare system for themselves or through their parents and grandparents. While still on their parents healthcare insurance plans (thanks ACA!), they wanted to understand the system and felt they needed to know more.

There is a great need to teach basics of how the healthcare system works in US at the highschool/undergraduate level. Youth need to know how to read their healthcare plan, how to work with their doctors for diagnosis, treatment and recovery. They need to understand how to find out what things cost in healthcare. They need to be able to pick a healthcare plan. They need to know how to read medical research and how to make sense of health articles in the media.

I invite the SPM community to help me write a newsletter dedicated to teaching health communication and participatory medicine at all levels. If you do any health related teaching and if you would like to share your opinions about teaching participatory medicine, please email me at before August 10, 2016.