01 July 2013

'Data Mining' May Work To Improve Patient Care

This is another instance of physicians learning that patients are good learners and there is definitely a change taking place in the doctor-patient relationship. I will admit that even in my own experience, the standard was the doctor prescribed and I followed his orders. As I have gained knowledge, I have done some push back on this in recent years. Some of my doctors have accepted this and are working with me, and at least one doctor has not accepted this. As a result, I am no longer a patient in that office.

This article in Medscape is from the TEDMED 2013 conference and two physicians spoke about the changes taking place. Both physicians felt that the opportunities for patients' involvement are becoming greater with the advent of the fast changing technology. Susan Desmond-Hellmann, MD, MPH, chancellor at the University of California, San Francisco, “Explained that she is part of a growing movement to empower patients through digital health initiatives and precision medicine. The goal is to cross-reference a patient's health data with a global "knowledge network" to deliver more targeted care.”

Doctor Desmond-Hellmann was cautious when she talked about, “There are situations where patient participation is not possible or is severely limited, such as in trauma, emergency surgery, or acute illness. Sometimes the best that can be done is informed consent. But when it comes to prevention, wellness, and chronic illnesses — these are perfect opportunities for healthcare consumers to get involved." I would prefer the change of “healthcare consumers” to the word patients.

This is something I can relate to and I feel that doctors that understand this will do more conscientious work knowing that patients in emergency situations cannot participate and will be asking many questions once they are on the road to recovery, provided they are able to communicate.

I whole heartedly agree with Dr. Desmond-Hellmann when she states, “If healthcare records all become electronic and the patients do not have access, that is defeating the purpose. These are wonderful new tools, but we need to use them to bring patients closer to their caregivers, in more of a partnership."

The other speaker following much the same thoughts was Dr. Roni Zeiger, founder and CEO of Smart Patients. He believes that technology is, “Helping patients move from being recipients of information to becoming experts — specifically, microexperts.  In many cases, we have patients who aren't just experts in what they feel or experience, but in the science of their disease." Read about Dr. Zeiger at this link.

I appreciate these thoughts and especially when Dr. Zeiger says, “We have a culture that is just ready to embrace this notion of a real peer-to-peer collaboration." We need more doctors that embrace this philosophy of peer-to-peer work and make use of it in clinical practice. I know in the case of diabetes, this could be part of what stops the epidemic of diabetes. This would also help in the education so badly needed by people with diabetes.

Since this not a priority on the agenda of the American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE), and its members, maybe it is time for endocrinologists to select patients who are microexperts and give additional training where needed and then work with other primary care physicians (PCPs) to have them assist with education. This could be especially valuable on the areas of sparse doctors and probably no CDEs.

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