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.