I recently came across a reference to an iPatient. It was in a New York Times Op-ed piece entitled Treat the Patient, Not the CT Scan by Abraham Verghese, a professor at the Stanford University School of Medicine.
The crux of his editorial was to maintain the focus on the patient rather than the electronic records of the patient. The following quote sums up his perspective:
“This computer record creates what I call an ‘iPatient’ — and this iPatient threatens to become the real focus of our attention, while the real patient in the bed often feels neglected, a mere placeholder for the virtual record.”
While this is true, the electronic transformation in health care needs to take place so that patient data is more accessible by both caregivers and care-receivers. Balance is required between the electronic and personal patient exchanges.
Related to this conversation is the role of patients in this process, including whether “patient” is the right term to really use. Several discussions have been centered on the concept of an empowered patient or e-patient.
So, when I came across iPatient, it just sounded right.
Since the editorial did not define an iPatient – other than tie it to a valid warning of focusing too much on electronic medical records rather than the person, let’s explore why this is a good term to consider.
An iPatient is:
- Integrated into our health care system. As care is received from different providers, we need attention and advice. Integrated is more than physical access; it is the seamless electronic integration of our data as we go to different physicians, labs, or imaging centers. Our clinical and administrative data follows us electronically from provider to provider, and it is integrated eventually into our own personal health record or PHR.
- Interconnected with the health community. Through social media channels, we participate with a community to raise our awareness of how to live a healthy lifestyle. Through health information exchanges (HIEs), we can easily visit and connect with specialties without having to re-enter data over and over again, and the continuity of our care is efficient and useful to all involved.
- Independent in maintaining our own health. This may be a version of being an empowered patient, which is an essential component in managing and engaging in our healthiness. We need to be responsible for our health.
- Informed by the physicians and clinicians we meet and by the research we do on ways to stay and be healthy. Being informed means getting materials which aid us in understanding diagnosis made and different perspectives from the medical and patient communities.
- Interactive with physicians and clinicians. It is about a relationship in which we feel comfortable in asking questions, and a physician feels comfortable in giving us straightforward advice and counsel. It about having the time to have this interaction as well as having empathy and mutual respect. It is a balance of electronic and personal relationships to make it all work.
An iPatient is not:
- Ignorant in what it takes to live a healthy lifestyle or how to engage our health care system. All involved need to be involved and up-to-date.
- Indifferent to maintaining our health. We can make a difference in our own health, every day.
- Isolated from the physicians or clinicians. It does take a community of health to lift everyone up in the care of our complete health.
- Impersonal in knowing our primary care physician or other key providers. There needs to be some personal connection at some level to ensure we understand what to do to stay healthy and why we should do certain things to be healthy.
- Impetuous in our health. It is not making rash or overly emotional decisions about our well-being. It is thinking it through and taking a long-term view. What this translates to is doing certain activities every week which gets us to and maintains us at a healthy state.
So, how does iPatient work as a term to describe the new patient? Is there another “I” to add to the definition?