Better Health: Smart Health Commentary Better Health (TM): smart health commentary

Latest Posts

How e-Patients Find Answers And Each Other Online

NPR logo[Recently] NPR’s popular program “Talk of the Nation” covered something we discuss often: How e-patients find information and find each other online. Featured guests were Pat Furlong, mother of two boys with a rare disease who started an online community, and Susannah Fox of the Pew Internet and American Life Project, a frequent contributor here. The audio is here.

It’s a good combination: Pat speaks from the heart about her own experience and her passion for community, and Susannah, as usual, speaks as an “internet geologist” — as she once put it, “A geologist doesn’t have opinions about the rocks, she just observes and describes them.” Susannah spoke about her newly-released report “Peer-To-Peer Healthcare,” about which she recently wrote here.

Listener comments begin around 13:00. Examples:

– A woman describes how she started a Facebook group for her painful chronic condition (ankylosing spondylitis) and it’s grown into a website, HurtingButHelpful.org. (Spoonies, take note!) What drove her to create a patient community? “There’s no one else who can understand what I’m talking about.”

– The mother of a newborn with a heart defect found similar parents online. Hearing their stories — and even seeing an upsetting photo — helped her prepare for the surgery.

– On the downside, the daughter of an ovarian cancer patient said her now-cured mom keeps going online to patient communities and getting scared by what she reads. (Host Neal Conan’s observation: “There other parts of the computer that can be addictive, and I guess this one can, too.”)

It’s heartening to hear coverage of online patient communities, including the risks and challenges, in a respected outlet like NPR. (Time covered it, too, a year ago.) And there’s no equal for the reality check of Pew’s data. Some patient activists suggest (and some people fear) that the Internet “frees” patients from doctors, but Pew says that’s not what people are doing. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at e-Patients.net*

5 Tips For Diagnosing Yourself Online

“What’s the highest peak in North America, Mt. McKinley or Denali?” This is a great question the Web can answer for you. “What’s that lump on my neck?”  This is another great question — but not one you should rely on the Web to solve.

Best Doctors recently conducted a Twitter-based poll to find out what channels of information people use to get healthcare advice.  It turns out, 54 percent of respondents use the Web as their primary source of information. Is this kind of do-it-yourself medicine a good idea?

I’m a firm believer that you should do everything you can to make sure you’re getting the right care when you’re sick. But before you start your do-it-yourself journey, here are five things to keep in mind:

1. To get the right answer, you need to ask  the right questions. If you decide that that lump on your neck is a sign of lymphoma, you’re going to get very worried and start researching everything you can on lymphoma. You may see your doctor and when he tells you it’s actually a benign cyst, you’re going to have a hard time believing him. Now, your skepticism is a good thing, but before you start driving yourself crazy with serious conclusions, make sure you have your facts straight. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at See First Blog*

The “e-Patient” Revolution: Is It Over?

There’s a conversation brewing over use of the term “e-patient.” The online health revolution is over, it’s been suggested. Web use, after all, has become so widely adopted  that the term “e-patient” may have more historical meaning.

Dropping the “e” might indicate that we’ve arrived. I’m not so sure. Perhaps the revolution we thought was going on never entirely took off. Or maybe it’s all about how you define the revolution.

Here’s what I see: Day in and day out, over weeks and months, hundreds of patients visit my clinic. I talk to them candidly about the tools they use and how technology and community is changing how they see their problems. I do the same with friends and family members. And like it or not, they’re a lot closer to “e-Patient 1.0″ than many of us would like to think. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at 33 Charts*

“E-Visits” With Patients: For Greedy Doctors Or Not?

Dr. Wes (a cardiology blogger whom all should read) wrote a very compelling post about technology and the bondage it can create for doctors:

The devaluation of doctors’ time continues unabated.

As we move into our new era of health care delivery with millions more needing physician time (and other health care provider’s time, for that matter) –- we’re seeing a powerful force emerge –- a subtle marketing of limitless physician availability facilitated by the advance of the electronic medical record, social media, and smartphones.

Doctors, you see, must be always present, always available, always giving.

These sound like dire words, but the degree to which it has resonated around the Web among doctors is telling. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Musings of a Distractible Mind*

The Problem With The Newly-Launched “Healthcare.gov”

If a website touted misleading healthcare information, you’d hope the government would do something about it. But what do you do when the government is the one feeding the public bad information?

Last week the Obama administration launched the new Healthcare.gov. It’s mostly an online insurance shopping website. It’s very much a federal government version of sites like eHealthInsurance.com or Massachsetts’ HealthConnector site, which have been around for years.

So when HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, in announcing the new site, claims it gives consumers “unprecedented transparency” into the healthcare marketplace, you should wonder what she means. But that’s not the big problem with this site. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at See First Blog*

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

Read more »

How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

Read more »

See all interviews »

Latest Cartoon

See all cartoons »

Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

Read more »

The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

Read more »

Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

Read more »

See all book reviews »