Vanessa Carter (#hcsmSA)
Vanessa is an award-winning entrepreneur and was a creative director for 18 years. She is a professional ePatient activist for MRSA (Antibiotic Resistance) and Facial Differences from South Africa. She is an advisory board member for Doctors 2.0 and You, EyeforPharma, InfectionControl.Tips as well as a member of The Walking Gallery of Healthcare. Read more here.
The “e” in the term ePatient has a number of associated meanings which include Enabled, Equipped, Emancipated, Empowered, Educated, Equal, Expert, Electronic and Engaged to name a few.
Before the Internet, practising medicine was relatively simple. A patient would visit a doctor, be given a diagnosis and seldom question that opinion because access to medical knowledge was limited. Today, because of the access to information we have on the web, the typical patient spends hours researching to find answers about his condition. This access to online resources has caused some disorder in medicine and South Africa has not been isolated from this revolution.
The term ePatient was first coined by Dr Tom Ferguson and part of his research was referring to how the internet was helping patients find online support. The Internet is a powerful tool and while many professionals warn that the content is misleading, the internet can also be empowering.
The Internet continues to expand rapidly as the web moves into the third version (web 3.0) and experts question the remaining life expectancy of indexing search engines like Google. Relative to this growth, technologies like fitness wearables and mobile applications that gather data for the patient’s electronic health record (EHR) are burgeoning too.
Health 2.0 is currently one of the related terms being used by experts to describe an extension of eHealth by using a diverse combination of smart and wearable technologies with web 2.0 tools like online communities, blogs and social media that enable the patient to become an active and participatory partner in his/her own healthcare. The future of digital health will probably take the shape of a more interactive ecosystem as Health 2.0 describes it, patients are already empowering themselves using these virtual tools, therefore it makes sense that we build innovative solutions around that.
In terms of web 2.0, according to a report in January 2016, the statistics in South Africa suggest that 26.8 million citizens spend almost three hours a day on social media. Many of these sites like Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp offer the user the tools to create groups and online communities.
These communities are one example of how patients are connecting to each other to share their experiences and educational resources as well as offer peer-to-peer support. Dedicated sites like Patientslikeme.com is another popular platform which provides ePatients with real-time community-driven data to help them make more informed decisions, even about certain medications and their side-effects. In another article by KevinMD, he said that the empowering outcomes from online communities that were experienced to the strongest degree were “being better informed” and having an “enhanced social well-being.”
Analytics gathered from these collective conversations can also be significantly more valuable to precision medicine R&D than the broken data we gather across multiple public platforms. While communities are only a small portion of patient empowerment, it demonstrates the impact which web 2.0 tools could have in a Sustainable, patient-centered health system.
“Is there a better way to listen to patients than through providing them with the empowering community support they have been searching for?”