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Practice Matters

News from Lola Butcher about health policy and practice management issues of importance to oncologists

Friday, May 31, 2013

Let Your Patients Help You

Dave deBronkart isn’t the first cancer survivor to use a life-threatening experience to make a difference in the world. But the way he is using his personal connections, speaking engagements, blog posts, books and his own fame to change the way health care (or as he would say “health” and “care”) are practiced makes him one of the most ambitious.


DeBronkart is the world’s foremost e-patient. If you don’t know what that means, click here and get with the 21st century.  


His new book, Let Patients Help: A Patient Engagement Handbook, with an introduction by Eric J. Topol, MD, gives physicians specific instructions on what they need to do to promote patient engagement -- and possibly save lives in doing so.  It only takes about an hour to read but if that seems like too much, skip to the “tip sheets” at the end.


Look for two sections -- “Ten Things Clinicians Say That Encourage Patient Engagement” and “Ten Things Clinicians Say (or do) That Discourage Patient Engagement” -- written by DeBronkart’s primary care physician and co-author, Daniel Sands, MD.


Sands, an assistant clinical professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, is co-founder and immediate past president of the Society for Participatory Medicine.


Do you say this to your patients?


“Learn as much as you can about your condition. Here are some ways to get started.”


“I encourage you to seek a second opinion before making a decision about major surgery or other serious treatments.”


“I don’t know the answer to your question; let’s look it up together.”


“Here’s how you can connect with me online.”


If yes, you are making Dave deBronkart’s day. Congratulations on encouraging patient engagement.


Or, do you sound like this?


“Here’s what you are going to do.”


“Stay off the internet. If you do search, don’t bring it to us -- we don’t have time for it.”


“We’ll call you if anything’s wrong. If you want to get your test results, you’ll need to make an appointment.”


“If you want to see your medical record, talk to the office -- they will tell you the fee.”


You may be able to get away with this paternalistic patter today, but if deBronkart has his way, patients won’t put up with this much longer. DeBronkart has a big smile and a humorous way of making his points but physicians who do not support patient engagement should be very afraid of him.