e-Patient Dave deBronkart shares his views on the age of empowered patients and next steps for participatory healthcare in New Zealand
Patients should work in partnership with their doctors to manage their own health, internationally renowned speaker ‘e-Patient’ Dave deBronkart told health and technology professionals at the HiNZ Conference held in Rotorua last November.
During his visit – funded by partners Revera, Waitemata DHB and its innovation team i3, and HINZ – deBronkart formed a view of New Zealand’s readiness for participatory medicine and outlined a number of recommendations for embracing the change.
Captured in a newly-released report, After-visit Report and Plan, deBronkart discusses the emerging world of patient empowerment and engagement, and why the patient’s role must be redefined to emphasise autonomy, emancipation, and self-reliance instead of passivity and dependence.
Dave deBronkart changed his outlook on the traditional role of patients and doctors after he was diagnosed in January 2007 with late stage kidney cancer. His prognosis was grim with a median survival rate of just 24 weeks.
However, his last treatment was in July of that year, and by September he had beaten the disease.
Now known as ‘e-Patient Dave’, his core message is about the importance of patients being involved in their patient information.
“Ten years ago, I was miraculously saved from almost certain death. My advice for people is to be actively involved as consumers of healthcare, as people who need and purchase and use medical services,” he says.
Dave believes in ‘Participatory Medicine’, saying that while patients usually are not doctors, they can ask questions, take positive action and try to understand as much as possible about their condition. In this way, they become partners in creating and managing their own health.
He compares the cultural shift happening in healthcare to the women’s movement of the 1960s and 1970s where a group of people, who were previously thought unable to do something, gained insight and information and agitated for change.
“When constraints are removed, new things become possible. That’s what we’re seeing now with digital health information being available to patients.”
Dave argues that while some doctors may feel threatened by this cultural shift, patients do not have the clinical training to replace them and increased patient involvement can vastly improve the care doctors provide.
His personal story is a great example of this: “I was actively involved in my cancer case, but I certainly couldn’t have diagnosed myself or have done surgery to remove my kidney,” Dave explains.
“This is not about patients not needing doctors, but about patients becoming more meaningful partners.”
Well informed and educated patients can take pressure off doctors as they are able to research their symptoms and conditions and chat to fellow patients or other health professionals online.
Engaged patients can also contribute more to getting and staying healthy. Dave uses wearables and apps to track his diet, exercise and sleep and has been amazed at the difference this has made to his general health and wellbeing.
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