I decided to blog about e-Patient and being one such typical person, I googled term “e-patient” and was surprised to find an entry for e-patient on wikipedia. As that write-up says, it stands for patients who feel they are enabled to find the best solution/care, equipped with skills to manage or handle their condition, and feel that they be provided all the information and treated as a partner by their provider. They are also likely to demand higher engagement with their healthcare providers.
Now the first question is how many of them are possibly e-patients? In the US, research suggest about 60-65% of the total population would have e-patient characteristics. In India, this number in cities maybe about 20% but growing rapidly with increasing access to internet with 3G, multiple choices for providers and insurance companies to assist them and the general awareness through media and friends.
Now lets look at what an e-patient typically does.
- Research on internet for hours about all possible causes of the health condition
- Meet the family doctor close to home
- Find “experts” in the area through internet research and friends
- Meet 2-3 “experts” before zeroing on the one person
- Make lists of all possible cases, causes to quiz the doctor to confirm his interpretation and ideas
- Confirm next steps in terms for watch lists and action items
- Use an online system to access doctor (if available) for better comfort and dialogue
The increasing portion of e-patients and their expectation means that the healthcare providers need to think about the following areas to cater to them:
- Expect higher level of engagement and time needed during the visit
- Patience to understand the situation and answer all the queries
- Provide patients sufficient information during and after the visit
- Become visible on the internet (mobile device) and build online reputation / manage feedback
- Build a communication channel with patients (for after visit care)
- Treat the person (instead of just the disease focus) with doctor playing the role of an advisor and psychologist.
The last point applies to situations when the e-patient is misinformed, tried to over interpret the information, indulges in self medication, too scared based on the online access to information. But managing e-patients and being equipped to support e-patients has become important for all healthcare providers.