Are e-patients better informed or just harder to treat?

By | October 20, 2009

I found an interesting article at EHR Bloggers that talks about the possibility of easy access to information via the internet resulting in difficult-to-treat patients and higher healthcare costs.

The concern raised in the NPR article describes the effect of information dissemination without context or interpretation – it happens anyway, with direct-to-consumer advertising in all forms of media, and it happens even faster with the Internet. And when patients, armed with these “facts” and the questions they raise, come to their physicians – the physician is often hard-pressed to put things into perspective. The result? Often, very-low-yield tests (or even unnecessary tests that raise the risk of harm through adverse events) and unnecessarily expensive treatments are agreed-to, simply because it’s the path of least resistance.

The problem isn’t with informed patients; it’s the model we’ve developed in our current healthcare system. The article speaks about limited time for physicians secondary to fee-for-service care. This is similar to what retail pharmacies have done with much of outpatient pharmacy services. Most retail pharmacists will tell you they spend more time fighting with insurance companies then they do talking with patients about their medications. One of the most enjoyable times of my pharmacy career was a short stint I spent working for a small independent pharmacy in San Jose. The owner/pharmacist that I worked with had a genuine interest in his patients, knew them by name and offered sound therapeutic advice. His patients appreciated his time and knowledge and were better informed to make important decision because of it.

The article goes on to offer some thought provoking ideas for closing the gap between our current healthcare model and well informed patients. It’s interesting stuff. If you have a moment I recommend you read the entire thing.

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