Even e-Patient Dave asked me, “What do you mean by e-patient?”
Dave deBronkart and I had just met each other at the Health 2.0 Meets Ix Conference and his question was prompted by my explanation that I was focused on understanding the best ways to reach, engage and educate today’s “e-patient.” Dave is known widely by his Twitter and Blogger handle of “e-patient Dave.”
And even before I could answer his question, e-Patient Judy Feder introduced herself to us both, and within a minute she asked the same question, “What do you mean by e-patient?”
This was a question I was asked about a dozen times while up at the Health 2.0 conference. The unplanned theme of the conference turned out to be the importance of participatory medicine, putting the patient at the center of care and at the center of the system. And yet over and over again people were asking me what I meant by “e-patient.”
Dave and Judy knew what I was referring to, but they were just checking my definition against theirs. Using the definition coined by the late Tom Ferguson, they consider an e-patient to be one that is equipped, enabled, empowered and engaged in their health care. In fact, you can read a white paper about the e-Patient Scholars Working Group.
I like that definition by I think we need to add a few more e’s to the mix: educated, expressive, expert, electronic—although one could argue that these words are implied in the original four.
But while Dave and Judy were just checking on me, many of the others who asked were unfamiliar with the term e-patient. Perhaps “empowered patient” is one that they could relate to? That term certainly has wide visibility thanks to CNN. Perhaps “digital health consumer” is more common?
I became curious about the usage of these different terms so I turned to Google to see how many hits it found for different terms.
I’m actually surprised that e-patient is found more frequently than empowered patient. Although it’s apparently used less often than e-patient, I would think that to the lay person “empowered patient” carries some immediate understanding.
I’d like to humbly suggest that we all make concerted effort to drive the use of “e-patient” in communications around health and healthcare. Having a word for something is of course critical to gaining an understanding for the thing. Maybe at the next Health 2.0 conference we will hear the term e-patient used dozens of time up on stage? Maybe between now and then the term will get blogged and tweeted a few thousand more times? And maybe, just maybe, we’ll have a news segment called “The e-Patient.”
So now it’s your turn…Is e-patient the right term? Is it a losing battle to try to get more people to adopt it?