A fascinating concept, this. The idea is simply that “giving the patient information relevant to his or her current moment in care” will improve the patient’s overall health and outcomes. Ahem, yeeeesss, that could help.
You might be surprised to learn that volumes of research papers and even official medical conferences have been built around this concept. Check out Informationtherapy.org, non-profit center that “aims to advance the practice and science of information therapy to improve health, consumer decision making and healthy behaviors.”
Of course, people need help with medical information — all the help they can get. But who knew that the idea of The Informed Patient was so institionalized? Not me, until recently. A big part of the Big Idea seems to be encouraging doctors and other healthcare professionals to empower their patients with information (rather than being annoyed or intimidated by patients in the know).
In the case of diabetes — the ultimate self-managed disease — one might argue that information is what patients need more than anything else. Those of us who have it can take our D-management into our own hands, become liberated from blind reliance on our doctors, and with a little luck, avoid the ugly complications of poorly controlled diabetes. Those of us who don’t have it are likely to “let our diabetes go” for too long and suffer the consequences.
To be clear, I’m not talking about “blaming the patient” here, but rather, offering good guidance on what a person with diabetes can and should do to keep their health in check. (This is where our new book comes in, btw. Know Your Numbers, Outlive Your Diabetes is information-therapy pure).
Naturally, we diabetes patients don’t always get all the right information we want and need, which is one reason we turn to the Web, to find each other and exchange ideas. Guess what? “More people look to health web sites than to doctors when looking for information about diabetes,” according to a new morefocus research study.
This might be why Information Therapy, which goes by the official acronym “Ix,” seems to focus a lot of energy on “harnessing the power of the Web for consumers.” Let’s face it, the Web helps us consumer-types access a lot of information that was previously locked up, immediately and for free. Meanwhile, blogs are humanizing the information. So medical institutions might need to do start doing futuristic things like training health pros to work with bloggers and social media. Just an idea…
In case you have really ambitious Ix goals, you can also view the slides and listen to the audio recordings of every presentation from the 2006 Ix conference last month by clicking HERE. Or sign up for next year’s conference in October 2007 in Park City, UT. Or read all about it on the highly informative Health Care Blog, which aims to keeps you up on everything you always wanted to know about the health care system, but were afraid to ask