Will Medicine Shift Its Focus?

by Shannon Rasp August 5, 2011 11:06 AM

There’s a great column in the Washington Post today about how social media and the Internet get all of the attention, but it’s really the field of medicine where many significant advances are being made. And as the new technologies debut, it will be up to knowledge translators to explain what it all means.


Columnist Vivek Wadhwa focuses on three fields – mobile and home medicine, personalization, and regenerative medicine – to make his case. He says that in the near future, medicine will shift its focus from treating chronic disease, as it does now, to prevention and health improvement.


Wadhwa’s column dovetails nicely with the work of Susannah Fox at the Pew Internet & American Life Project, who is constantly on the go spreading the word about the brave new world of the partnership between technology and health care, specifically mobile medicine.


Give it a read; it’s interesting and some of the possible advances sound really exciting. And let me know in the comments what you think. Does the prospect of this major shift in focus excite, or concern you?


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Storytelling That Moves and Persuades

by Rick Austin July 12, 2011 02:05 PM

Once upon a time, it was Nedra who was my go-to source for interesting knowledge translation insights. Just lately, Susannah Fox has been on a roll, and I’m bringing her back today.


She tweets about a blog on WebMD about a bipolar patient who reconceived how to treat his disorder, and then points to the continuing comments on her blog post about alpha geeks in health care, where Mariellen Gilpin writes movingly about taking her mental health care into her own hands.


What these two stories have in common is the power of narrative to illuminate and persuade. The bare facts are just the bare facts. Humans have thousands of years of history using storytelling to impart deep learning. When did we forget this, and have you remembered to tell a story rather than recite facts in your research?


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Even Knowledge Translators Must Become Alpha Geeks

by Rick Austin July 8, 2011 03:26 PM

Susannah Fox with the Pew Internet and American Life project is having some really interesting conversations on her blog at e-patients.net. Some of the threads have big implications for knowledge translation, like this one, where she called for a conversation about who the “alpha geeks” are in health care. Boy, does she get one!


Susannah Fox herself:I’ll go ahead and nominate all the people (OK, mostly moms) who contributed to this book: Uncommon Challenges; Shared Journeys: Stories of Love, Hope, and Community by Rare Disease Caregivers. They may not be writing code, but they’re alpha geeks in the sense that they don’t care what other people think or what’s been done before or what’s supposedly impossible.”


Carmen Gonzalez:The best alpha geeks are cross-pollinators who float from one community to the next, sharing ideas they have collected along the way.”


Dave DeBronkart (e-Patient Dave):If we re-color ‘geek’ in this sense to mean ‘one who cobbles together home-made solutions to their own real-world problems,’ I think if fulfills O’Reilly’s template of innovators ‘who live in a world of their own. They see and act on premises that are not yet apparent to others.’”


Who are the “alpha geeks” amongst public health researchers and knowledge translators? What can we learn from the clinicians, pharma, librarians, or disruptive/innovative patients who are geeking their way to new solutions?

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Building Critical Thinking Muscle: The Top Three Questions

by Rick Austin June 28, 2011 12:52 PM

Here’s where we stand: e-patient communities – good; peer-to-peer medicine – good; weak critical thinking/investigative muscle – very, very bad.


A few weeks ago, I blogged about a conversation between Susannah Fox from Pew Internet and Ted Eytan, a medical doctor who is immersed in social media. Ted visited KTExchange.org and pointed out an article he had written about the use of social media in medicine, particularly the growth of online patient communities.


My concern, as it’s always been, is how do we get concerned, inquisitive people to engage their critical thinking faculties when talking with their peers about the personally important issues of medicine, health, disease, treatment? In a comment to me on a related blog, Cameron Norman of Censemaking had some essential insights: “I argue that people don't want health care, they want good health and wellbeing. Now, with information at their disposal and the experiences of tens, hundreds or thousands of peers rather than one or two doctors, nurses, social workers or physiotherapists, they are somewhat freed from being wedded exclusively to us expensive folk. This is largely a good thing, except that most people haven't been raised, educated or exposed in a manner that allow this investigative muscle to fully form.”


How would you answer these three questions about building this muscle?


1. Can our traditional educational system build the critical thinking muscle? Can it move quickly enough? How?


2. Can healthcare professionals, as Ted Eytan suggests, be motivated to step into the gap and spend more time educating their patients? If so, how?


3. Can the e-patient communities themselves build their own investigative muscle?


I’ll bet there are some good ideas out there.


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More Insights on eHealth

by Rick Austin May 20, 2011 03:15 PM

As a follow-on to my previous post, here’s Susannah Fox doing a promotional video about her upcoming talk at the Medicine 2.0 conference in the fall. Embedded in the promo is some discussion about what trends are showing up strongly in Pew’s surveys.


What Susannah calls “peer-to-peer” medicine is growing rapidly. What can we as knowledge translators do to foster the critical thinking skills necessary to make these kinds of lively, spontaneous networks most useful?

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