The Emergence of E-Patients

Fresh on the heels of the Health 2.0 conference in San Francisco, a renewed spotlight is shining on empowered “e-patients.” The convention was a showcase for a myriad of online and mobile tools which enable patients to engage in their health and their lives in ways not previously feasible.

But who are these “e-patients,” and do they represent a significant segment of the population? A common belief among physicians is that “e-patients” are a minority of motivated people, but do not represent the bulk of the patients being attended. Is this true? A sentinel report describes e-patients, and what the term means, in some detail.

A recent report by the Pew Internet Project describes the rise of the e-patient. A rapidly growing segment of the population is using Internet and other e-tools for access to health information: 61% of the total population, and 83% of the online population, use the Internet for querying about health information. It is widespread across genders and ethnicities: 64% of men and 57% of women; 65% of whites, 51% of blacks, and 44% of Hispanics use the Internet this way. There is a skewing toward upscale and educated users, and towards parents of young children. Over the past few years, e-patients have become high-speed (using broadband 88% of the time), and mobile (using wireless 89% of the time). E-patients are also more likely to use social media, and build online networks of “patients like me” to discuss their health conditions, find out about resources, or simply vent their frustrations or experiences with the delivery system.

As consumers, e-patients have used the Internet to find out about the health delivery system as purchasers of service: 47% have looked up information about doctors; 38% have gotten information about hospitals; 33% about how to lose weight; 27% about health insurance; 12% about how to stay healthy during overseas travel.

Clearly, as technology has evolved and delivered fast, meaningful, mobile and low-cost (or free) tools, patients are becoming “e-patients.” They are engaging the health delivery establishment in a new way, in what can be described as Participatory Medicine.

Is there a direction towards which this development of “e-patients” and Participatory Medicine is heading? Are there platforms that are in a position to enable this direction? Patients, as consumers, are gathering information themselves over the Internet (sometimes from trusted sources, sometimes from questionable sources), and are forming communities among themselves in order to find meaning, support, and experience in making health decisions. Engagement with physicians, and other health care providers, is the logical next step in this evolution. Health professionals, when actively engaged in the networks that patients are creating anyway, can provide context and meaning.

Practice Fusion is building a platform that will enable this evolution in health care. By building a physician-facing Electronic Health Record (EHR) system that is able to seamlessly share clinical charts between clinicians taking care of the same patient, and by building a patient-facing Personal Health Record (PHR) that is automatically filled and updated real-time by the physician’s EHR, the level of interaction between patients and their clinicians can reach levels not previously witnessed. The consumer-friendly Health Internet, which is still a dream in practicality, is something that the Practice Fusion platform will be able to achieve in the very near future. With widespread adoption of this approach, and with connectivity between many different constituencies and trusted services, the impact on the health of the country can be measurably improved. That is the vision with which we build these tools. — end

NOTE: GE E-Care is the first on-line medical entity in California catering to E-Patients and engaging in complete Tele-medicine techniques.  This site details the care plan.

2 thoughts on “The Emergence of E-Patients

  1. Hello. I was reading someone elses blog and saw you on their blogroll. Would you be interested in exchanging blog roll links? If so, feel free to email me.

    Thanks.

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