What makes an e-Doctor?

The rise of the e-Patient movement has the potential to change the practice of medicine, in my opinion, for the better.  e-Patients demand to be taken seriously, to be “equipped, enabled,  empowered, engaged, equals, and emancipated.”

My recent post on KevinMD.com suggested the need for e-Doctors as well, in response to the growth of the e-Patient movement.

So how do you become an e-Doctor?  I believe you, and I, need to be equally “equipped, enabled, empowered, engaged, equals, and emancipated” with perhaps a few more ‘e’s to go along with those.

In turn,

equipped” – get a computer on your desk, an iPhone, iPad or equivalent, and a Twitter or Facebook account so you can access the same information resources to stay ahead of what is going on in the e-Patient movement – not for confrontational purposes, but so that you can meet the new expectations of these highly driven and proactive patients

enabled” implies you know how to use this information and technology as a means of …

engaging” with your patient, so that there is common ground, and you know where your patient is getting  information or support – some of which you may need to correct or advise against if you believe it is incorrect.

empowered” suggests that this new style of engagement needs to be looked at very carefully by doctors working  for institutions which have rules for use of social media, blogs etc by their doctors. Some of those rules may have been set by those who have no knowledge of social media and the new frontier it presents.  Empowered implies changing that balance.

emancipated” implies being freed from the traditional way of practicing medicine, in my opinion by the use of technology – online appointment systems, pre-consultation questionnaires, EMR’s and other advances, bringing us to the …

e-consultation” – many trail blazers are already hard at work in this area – redefining the doctor-patient relationship, and removing the need for face-to-face consultations for routine medical care.

equals” – the e-Patient is a consumer with equal rights.  Perhaps here is the hardest adjustment for doctors to make.  Patronizing models of doctor-patient relationship will just not work.  The knowledge base is not equal, neither is the experience, nor expertise – but the relationship should be.  Perhaps “balanced” relationship is the best way to say this.

empathy” – the e-Patient movement, as it appears today, appears to best serve the interests of those with chronic illnesses, where there is time at hand.  I think we doctors have little idea of what it is like to live with pain, discomfort and fear for days and weeks on end.  Until it happens to us.  I see throughout the movement a call to doctors to “walk in our shoes for a little bit, and see what … (name your disease) … is like.”  I also see a reluctance by doctors to do so as being the reason so many e-Patients are so angry with their former doctors.

Perhaps it was a lack of empathy in the profession that started patients on this road.  I don’t think it’s going to be easy for either patients or doctors to adapt, and there are bound to be mistakes along the way.  But once started, there’s no going back.  Doctors have to adapt.

Martin Young is an otolaryngologist and founder and CEO of ConsentCare.

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