E-Patients: Technology Empowered - from the Practo.com Blog

Have posted this on Practo’s Blog - here, but reproducing it here as well.

We came across this brilliant TED Talk from Dave deBronkart on how he survived Cancer with patient power! – a must watch for Patients & Doctors alike.

The key points for us to take away have been discussed in this post. All are not completely related to the talk though.


TEDxMaastricht Talk by E-Patient Dave – Video courtesy TED.com

Some say that the most under-utilized resource in all of healthcare is the power of patients themselves. The patient is large in number and an ability to bring them together has so far not been achieved. Technology could and is slowly becoming the solution to this problem as well! It has been termed as the E-Patient. The definition as given for the same is: E-Patients (also known as Internet Patient or Internet-savvy Patient) are health consumers who use the Internet to gather information about a medical condition of particular interest to them, and who use electronic communication tools (including Web 2.0 tools) in coping with medical conditions.

Why is the need for such a consumer behavior and how is it growing?

Let’s now consider the patient angle:

  1. He/She always has to carry files, records, for all of his/her medical history.
  2. There is no centralized system or an easy access to online records for patients to be able to store their own data.
  3. Few major hospital chains which build online records do not provide patients access to data – until requested, and that too is only hospital consultation specific!

The concept of E-Patient has come in recently via a wave by patient-patient movement to support each other in the United States of America. Patients are taking up the responsibility of themselves; they want to learn more about their treatments, their own records and gain awareness on their issues.

Technology will play an important role in enabling what might be the biggest revolution in Healthcare – the E-Patient. With online communities of passionate patients we can expect it to manifest into a movement because of:

  1. Empathizing with similar situations faced by other patients
  2. Provide solutions/treatment options from best experiences from across the world
  3. Access to a network of patients who have access to Doctors

Doctor-Patient Relationship

A very interesting development occurs with the advent of Technology – “Doctor-Patient Relationship”

Dr. Malpani, a Mumbai based blogger from the Healthcare-Technology domain writes

“Right now the standard response for all patient queries is – Ask your doctor! (Isn’t it ridiculous that most books and websites on fitness and exercise have this disclaimer – Please check with your doctor before starting an exercise program!) All we end up doing is making patients more dependent on the doctor and unnecessarily increasing the doctor’s workload! What we need to do is make patients more independent, so they can fend for themselves!”

He provides a solution to the problem –

“The trick to making patients do all the work is to develop clever tools which will help the patient to make sense of what is happening to them so they can communicate clearly with their doctor. The vast majorities of health problems are self-limited and just need reassurance. They can easily be managed by a phone call or an email.

The question then more importantly arises for all of us, is India’s Healthcare moving towards such an eco-system to enhance patient empowerment? Are we able to identify ways to provide accessibility of records to patients such that they can be responsible for the self, as technology grows in multiple folds?

Dr. Hasan Iqbal from Kolkata mentions that a patient of his was one of the reasons that he learnt a new technique of surgery and treatment, as the patient – all of 21 years old googled and found a different cure to his ailment. Since then, Dr. Iqbal uses this new methodology and to best effect for both his practice & the patients wellness.

The eco-system has to be developed in India and we all have to play our role in doing so.