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The Rise Of The e-Patient And My Personal Story

Posted by | 12:14pm on Wednesday, November 5, 2008

These e-Patients – especially those with chronic diseases – are taking more and more responsibility for their treatment. 

DiabetesIn the more than 10 years since I founded Siren Interactive, I have seen a lot of change in the behavior of patients in regards to searching for health information online. The shift has been relatively quick and seems to grow more powerful everyday.

In 2000, the Pew Internet and American Life Project documented that 55% of Americans with internet access had looked for health or medical information online. Now, just eight years later, that number is almost 80% (78% in broadband-equipped home, 70% in dial-up homes).

These e-Patients are different from any patient population before them. They are more active in their treatment, better educated about diseases and therapies, and rely on a much wider swath of information sources, now mostly online.

The Rise of the e-Patient

Dr. Tom Ferguson, in consultation with the e-Patient Scholars Working Group, authored an extensive white paper that examines this patient population: e-Patients: How they can help us heal healthcare. His findings are largely in line with the results from Pew and other prominent organizations researching online trends. Among Dr. Ferguson’s findings:

  • 93% of e-Patients said that it was important that the internet made it possible to get the medical information they needed when it was most convenient for them.
  • 91% of e-Patients looked for information on a physical illness
  • 83% of e-Patients said that it was important that they could get more health information online than they could get from other sources.
  • 80% of e-Patients visited multiple medical sites. A few visited 20 sites or more.

The Warning to Marketers

Marketers must be aware: patients have a lot of control. These e-Patients – especially those with chronic diseases – are taking more and more responsibility for their treatment. What they require most is relevant content delivered in a prompt and readable manner.

My Story

On a personal note, I was diagnosed three months ago with Type II diabetes. I did not have any symptoms – I failed a life insurance exam. My doctor immediately put me on Metformin.

When word got around my family, I received an email from an uncle who has had Type II diabetes for 20 years. He suggested that I look into Byetta as a therapy as well. I immediately went online and did just that. After reading all the warnings (yes, I know about the issues with Byetta) I decided it might be a good fit for me. I printed off a copy of what I found on the web site and went back to my doctor. After a brief conversation, he prescribed Byetta for me as well as the Metformin.

It certainly confirmed for me that what I have been telling marketers about e-Patients for years played out for me in real life.

Also, the importance of self management for a chronic disease could not have been brought home more clearly to me. Nor the need for good education around disease management, support for caregivers, and the need for transparency from therapy providers.

Anyone else have a story about finding information online – both good and bad – that helped them control/diagnose their chronic disease?

(Image courtesy of cbenefiel via Flickr)

About Wendy White

Since founding Siren Interactive in 1999, Wendy has been recognized as a thought leader at the intersection of niche pharma brands, patient empowerment and online marketing. Her vision for how the internet can facilitate interactions and provide crucial information that patients, caregivers and their healthcare providers previously struggled to find has propelled Siren to the forefront of relationship marketing for rare disorder therapies.

View other posts from Wendy

2 Pingbacks/Trackbacks

  • http://patientdave.blogspot.com e-Patient Dave

    Hi Wendy! I’m one of the writers on the e-patients blog, where Tom Ferguson’s work continues today. I learned of the group back in January and in March I became one of their writers. Susannah Fox, another of writers, is the author of most of the Pew research that you cited (and a wonderful person!)

    At the top of the e-patient blog is a link to the paper, and a link to an editable wiki version.

    One thing we do on the blog is keep adding stories like yours.

    Good to meet you -

  • http://www.edocamerica.com Charles Smith

    Thanks for your post! I was a friend of Tom’s, helped edit the white paper and founded a company, eDocAmerica, that strongly endorses the ePatient revolution and strives to help patients answer questions that they take from the offices of their own physicians and those that they have when they encounter information online that they don’t understand.

    I appreciate your interest and for promoting this movement!


  • http://www.DrGreene.com Cheryl Greene

    Wendy — Thanks for this post and your mention of the e-Patient movement. I am a breast cancer survivor and became very involved in my own therapy, but not until about half way through my treatment when I realized how important it was to participate fully. That was in 1996 when the e-Patient movement was just beginning. Now there are so many tools and active communities that I’m sure you’ll have great success. As they say, some of the healthiest people have a chronic disease — because they activity engage in their own health.

    All the best,
    Cheryl Greene

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