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Health 2.0 Meets Ix: No More Patient Patients Insights from Deloitte Survey of Health Consumers
May 08

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.

e-patient defintion

e-patient defintion

But while Dave and Judy were just checking on me, many of the others who asked were uempowered patientnfamiliar 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?


  • admin

    Pete, absolutely agree with the ultimate goal. Hopefully one day "patient" will already mean one who is in charge, engaged, empowered, etc.

    Dave and Susannah, as the two people most responsible for today's use of "e-patient" I really appreciate your comments and support on this. And the "educated about evidence" is a new one to me. Natural outcome from the H20 meets Ix I think.

    Trisha, can't wait to see your new book. "EmPatient" also sounds like impatient to me. Which is maybe a good thing since Don Kemper and others called for "no more patient patients!" Cheers.

  • Kevin - you make a good point about the confusion. Confusion about "e-patient" that has existed, I suspect, ever since Tom Ferguson began using it.

    My first book will be published in the next few months. In it, I have used the term "emPatients" -- of course, an abbreviation of sorts for Empowered Patient. To me, empowered is a word that encompasses the others: equipped, enabled, engaged, expressive and all the others.

    A word is only as good as its perception. If "e-patient" continues to be misconstrued, no matter the good intentions of the person who first used it, then it just won't have the legs it needs to make its dent in the world.

    And we e, em, empowered patients are truly poised to make our dent on the world.

  • I'm a proponent of the term "e-patient" and a contributor to the blog, so you can already tell that we are singing from the same songbook.

    My first attempt at naming was in November 2000, on the occasion of the Pew Internet Project's first report on the internet's impact on health care -- I came up with "health seeker" to describe the 25% of US adults who looked online for health information.

    Then I met Tom Ferguson (see and became convinced that "e-patients" was a better term because it was both more specific and more open to interpretation (all those "e" words).

    Over the years I've seen other names come and hopefully go. I personally do not like "cyberchondriac" which was coined by Harris Interactive and recently revived in a different context by two Microsoft researchers. I do not mind "consumer" or "citizen" and wonder if "e-patient" can encompass caregivers, the worried well, and otherwise accurately describe the now 61% of US adults who gather and share health info online.

    I think it's a term that works for right now, this moment, and if DocTom taught me anything, it's to be "in the moment."

  • Love it. You rock.

    Given the awakening we've experienced about statistics (see the Understanding Statistics category on, some of us are also saying e-patients are Educated about Evidence. Lotsa muck in the world of "peer reviewed evidence," and if patients don't realize it, they can get tripped up!

    Imagine, well-meaning patients getting tricked by trusting that anything in a medical journal is more reliable than anything that's not. Well, that's what we've learned.

    Maybe the participatory them song will be "Because I'm e's-y."

  • Pete

    Why is e-patient more popular than empowered patient? Because e-patient, to the general public, indicates a patient who is online. "Empowered patient"? Empowered to do what? Equipped to do what? Most of the "e" words you offer are fairly meaningless without a specific context. One that you list is "expert" -- I'd guess that an expert patient would be a physician with a disease: an actual expert in a relevant area.

    At the end of the day, the goal of health 2.0 is to drive home the message that every one of us is responsible for our own health and to provide us the tools necessary to engage us in it. Therefore, whatever term you come up with should be a transitional term: in the future, it will be assumed that every patient is engaged.

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