The rise of mhealth and the e-patient: Boston players

The rise of mhealth and the e-patient: Boston players

The worried well, the sick and the chronically ill use the Internet for support, information and conversation.  Some just Google and swim through thousands of hits on the marginal, useful and the dangerous. ( Lung cancer? 9 million hits.)

E-patients are more targeted and are becoming health care system players. They seem to fill a void left by the industry-funded patient advocacy groups that sometimes fail to represent individual patients’ needs.

Ever since the Internet took hold, patients have been using it to find information, set up support groups and offer news about treatments, research and self-help. Their rise has and will continue to change the way patients get health information.

In Boston, two examples come to mind – e-patient Dave and The Center for Connected Healthcare at Harvard brings together these groups and other.

The term “connected health” reflects the range of opportunities for technology-enabled care programs and the potential for new strategies in healthcare delivery.” The center is “developing programs and innovative strategies to move care from the hospital or doctor’s office into the day-to-day lives of patients.  Leveraging information technology – cell phones, computers, networked devices and simples remote health monitoring tools – the Center is helping providers and patients manage chronic conditions, maintain health and wellness, and improve adherence, engagement and clinical outcomes.

Here’s a description of mhealth:

The Center for Connected Health believes in the power of mobile technology to transform the lives of patients and to improve the quality of care that we provide. We are currently exploring several areas of mHealth, from smartphone applications to wireless data transfer systems that can give patients a closer relationship with their providers

          E-patient Dave deBronkart embodies all this. He describes himself as “a voice of patient engagement. He survived cancer in 2007, wrote a book, and became an advocate for health care that recognizes the wired patients’ new role. His web site has a helpful list of links. He is a mad tweeter, lives In New Hampshire and is in big demand on the health care speakers’ circuit. From his site:

An engaged patient plays an active role in his or her care. Or, as founder “Doc Tom” Ferguson said, “e-Patients are Empowered, Engaged, Equipped and Enabled.”

We who’ve become e-patients don’t wait for our providers to tell us everything; we get it in gear, we ask questions, we do what we can to help.

Don’t think you’re qualified? Consider the advice on the magnet at right:

Trust yourself.
You know more
than you think you do.

Radical new advice? No, it’s the opening line of Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care, first published sixty years ago, in 1946.

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