Social Networks, Patient Education And The Healthcare System
Posted May 27 2012 11:32pm
Stanley Feld M.D., FACP, MACE
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The value of social networking has been partially understood by society. To me social networking’s potential for improving the quality of medical care has been poorly understood. Social networking can be a valuable educational tool in medical care.
I have always believed that if patients have a better understanding of their disease, they can better understand the reasons for their treatment. The result will be a better treatment outcome. This understanding will increase adherence to treatment. Adherence to recommended treatment nationally is about 50% for most chronic diseases.
One of the spokes in the business model wheel for the ideal future healthcare system state emphasizes development of social networks within medical practices.
Social networks can act as physician extenders to increase physicians’ ability to teach patients to be a “Professor of Their Disease .” Physicians can increase the quality of care they deliver by creating social networks within their practice. Patients can create a nickname so as to be anonymous to the social network. The physicians would be aware of the nickname.
Social networking is another name for participating in a community. Most people participate in multiple communities. Some join communities for social reasons, others for educational reasons, and still others for economic reasons.
Human are social beings. They enjoy interrelating with others.
There are hundreds of communities on-line. These communities encompass many of the subcultures in our society.
For example, I have joined the on-line TED , Sermo , and Medscape communities to name a few to satisfy my need for continuing life long learning.
Some patients go on-line to find out about their disease. They either did not hear or did not understand their physician’s explanation of their disease.
Some explanations are very complicated. Some are not in agreement with the physician’s explanation. Some physicians do not explain diseases well.
The lack of understanding about their disease could have been because patients were too anxious about their disease to hear or understand the explanation for a particular treatment. A patient could believe the explanation was gibberish.
A great illustration of gibberish is the following explanation of the Turbo Encabulator. Try to understand the following explanation of the Turbo Encabulator.
This is pure gibberish. A person can understand all the words if he concentrated but the string of words has no meaning. Patients need to be able to hear explanations that answer their specific questions over and over again. Disease processes and the effects of treatment can be complicated.
All complicated issues can be explained simply. Complexity is the result of combining multiple simple effects. The complicated issues can be explained by dissecting these effects to their core.
The trick is to develop the right teaching materials. The following is an example of what I mean by developing the right teaching material.
The main stream media and many people have interpreted Paul Ryan’s claim that President Obama has double counted the $500 billion dollar saving by which the President claims he is reducing the deficit with his healthcare reform act.
Everyone has heard the Carl Sandberg’s statement, “If you tell a lie enough times it becomes the truth.”
If Representative Ryan demonstrated the double counting in plain English as the following animated cartoon does, 100% of people would understand why Paul Ryan is correct in making that claim. It is arithmetic explained simply.
A more complicated subject can be made simple as the following animation, “Changing Education Paradigms” shows
The animation technique is entertaining. It holds the viewer’s attention. It is a powerful teaching tool. This tool can be developed for all chronic and acute diseases. It could be used as a teaching tool in social networks within a physician’s practice. It would be available 24/7.
It the government wanted to create an efficient healthcare system it should help physicians set up social networks and develop animated cartoons for chronic disease management.
Physicians could choose web sites of their choice to educate their patients. These social networks could be set up so patients could interact with other patients in their physicians’ practices.
Patients could learn from each other about their treatment successes and failures. The social networks could be broken into subgroups such as diabetes, asthma, heart disease and others.
The social network could be an effective extension of the physician’s care with interactions supervised by the patient’s own physician. A modest reimbursement for the physician’s time should be provided.
Physicians should set up social networks with other physicians in their community to discuss interesting cases. This was the original purpose of hospital grand rounds and other teaching rounds. This community activity is disappearing as physicians are seeing more patients and cannot break away to get to the conferences. The national online communities are good but a local online community is better.
All medicine is local and medical education should be local to have its greatest impact.
Social networking in medicine is all about educating patients in the care of their disease. Patients are the only ones who can control the course of their disease and its outcome. Physicians have to provide patients with the learning platform and supervise the treatment.
The opinions expressed in the blog “Repairing The Healthcare System” are, mine and mine alone