Health 2.0 and relationship centered care
Earlier this month, Businessweek published a major story on Health 2.0 and the rise of patient power in reforming the way health is practiced. Drawing extensively on their case of Patientslikeme, they discussed how members of the social network had enrolled themselves in their own clinical trial for lithium treatments of ALS, issues surrounding Pharma, how Patientslikeme sells data to others and the increasing willingness of patients to put all sorts of information about themselves out there for consumption in the hopes that somewhere, someone may have a cure for what ails them. Matthew Holt, founder of the Health 2.0 conference explains, “The health-care system has traditionally delivered care for acute events only, but illness is lived in long, ongoing periods.” When you’re in for the long haul, you need some fellow travelers and herein lies the power of social networks like Patientslikeme.
However this power does come with some concerns, especially around the free flow of information online and the corresponding changes people see in the health care relationship spurred on by patient collaborations and the shortcuts they are willing to take to ensure better care. As one member of Patientslikeme openly states,“I welcome partnerships with pharma.” And people in pharma are happy to partner as well as Novartis’ head of development, Trevor Mundel puts it, “patients will keep pressuring all of us in the direction of more openness.”
So how do health care providers feel about this evolving relationship with empowered patients? If we look back over time, this most recent tech driven evolution of the clinical relationship has been coming for while. Born from dis-satisfactions with the mainly paternalistic approach to medicine practiced several generations ago, and the increasing disconnect between people and their care providers accelerated by HMOs, many health care researchers have been discussing a swing of the pendulum to patient centered care which is exactly where much of the health 2.0 coverage is currently focused.
But one side of the care relationship remains in the shadows with this pendulum extreme. Indeed, if you were to attend the American Academy of Communication in Healthcare or the European Association for Communication in Healthcare, you would hear a different story being told. This is the story of relationship-centered care which instead of focusing on only one of the side of the health relationship to the exclusion of the other, focuses on the middle – what happens when these people interact and how the care of someone’s health is performed in relationships between providers and patients as well as patients and their families and friends, not to mention the peer relationships in which health care professionals are embedded.
In my own work with clinical practice, we take care to focus on what happens in the clinical interaction around creating and maintaining relationships of care, but also what happens outside the exam room, in the hand off of patient files, in the ways colleagues care for each other and work together in empathic and supportive climates. This is not easy. Many health care professionals are trained to be individuals and independent (part of the issue with their clinical relationship), so any moves to collaborative partnerships with patients or peers are deeply challenging. Yet your own health may rely exactly on these connections. Burnout, stress, addictions and serious disorders run rampant in medical practice. Many of these dis-eases can be tracked back to exactly what patients on Patientslikeme are trying to avoid – isolation and loneliness (real or perceived).
So as the holiday season approaches and the clinic gets crazy, remember to practice care for yourself, your colleagues and all those outside the clinic with whom you share a life. Practice partnership, practice connection, practice collaboration. Everyone’s health depends on it and you don’t need to see the cover of Businessweek to tell you!
Together we rise!
Tags: AACH, American Academy of Communication in Healthcare, business week, Businessweek, clinical interaction, clinical practice, clinical practice guidelines, clinical relationship, collaboration, connection, EACH, European Association for Communication in Healthcare, health 2.0, Matthew Holt, Novartis, novartis pharma, partnership, patient collaborations, patient-centered care, Patientslikeme, peer relationships, relationship centered care, social network, social networks