The diverse nature of patient communities: a prostate cancer patient’s experience

During my illness, my patient community at (now played an important role, but it’s not easy to find a good community for most diseases. (For instance, the most common cancer in the world is skin cancer, and I haven’t found a single smart, active community for its patients.) So several years ago I started a Patient Communities page on this site, to collect whatever information we can find.  Maybe someday we can get some funding or a volunteer team to organize it better, but for now (as patients always do) we’ll make do with what we have!

Last week in Vermont, at the VITL health IT conference, after a workshop session, audience member Damon Lease said he’s found several different communities for prostate cancer, and found that each has its own personality. In my view that’s no surprise – people are different, and there’s no standardized way for communities to form and grow. Consider the diverse nature of the groups Damon found, on this one disease. From his email: Continue reading →

A new vision of telehealth: the “epital” – getting the care you need while “outmitted”

Thanks to Torben Rügge of Cure-It for this tip. We met at the Karolinska Institute event I wrote about recently.

People in medicine are talking endlessly these days about patient-centered care.  (Some prefer “person-centered.”) Many are asking what the term means, and some patients are responding, “Thanks for asking! How far will you let us take it?”

Here’s a vision of a future healthcare system, presented at TEDx Copenhagen in 2012 by Danish Dr. Klaus Phanareth. I’m amazed that I haven’t heard of this talk – it’s aligned with my way of thinking and very thought provoking. 14 minutes. (Email subscribers, if you can’t see the video, click here.)

The scripted scene (at 9:52) is of course idealized, with your own doc and your own health coach happily available the moment you call. But aside from that, think about what doses of care the patient is getting … and think about whether she would have gotten what she needs, if she’d had to bundle up and get in a car to go get it.

Then think about your own medical incidents, your kids’, your parents’… think about the future. Can you get the dose of care you want?

People in other countries are working on things like this, and I see no reason why we all shouldn’t.

Next time you need care, ask yourself: do I need to go see someone face to face?  Sometimes we do, but …

If we really want care to be patient-centered, are we ready to make the whole thing be as convenient as we’d like? What are the obstacles?

Related post: my encounter with the Swiss medical system, which began with a Skype telehealth “visit” with my primary overseas. I liked that. That was patient centered!


Request: true stories of where patient engagement in the chart made a difference

Vermont IT Leaders logoI’m giving a talk in Vermont next week, to health IT workers, and in talking with the organizers we realized it would be great to give them a vision of WHY we’re doing this – some true stories of where patients benefitted from seeing the data in their chart.

(By the way, the event is open to the public, and is just $99, an amazing deal. Among the speakers will be Karen DeSalvo, head of ONC.)

Anyone??  It could be yours, or one you’ve seen in the press.  I blogged about it on and have started collecting answers there.

You can post your own stories, or just go read what reality is in health IT these days - can you say “Let patients help!”?


Talks in Stockholm, part 2: “Dagens Patient” workshop at Karolinska Institute

This talk, last Wednesday in Stockholm, was for a significantly more academic audience than I usually face: A packed room at Karolinska Institute, the university that is the home of the Nobel Prize. The purpose in this case was to kindle some significantly new thoughts in a super-sharp audience: 20 researchers, 10 patients, 5 students, 5 healthcare professionals, academic think tank leaders, leaders in healthcare professional bodies, 5 health care professionals , 7 health care designers. A lot of people also had more than one role. Wow!

The event was part of an important Karolinska project called “Today’s Patient” (“Dagens patient”). It’s got e-patient written all over it. (This is a continuation of last Thursday’s post of my talks Monday and Tuesday at Digital Health Days in Stockholm. The closing panel video is up now.)

Email subscribers, if you can’t see the video, click here to view it on YouTube. 

(How about the nifty video editing by Anders Westin?? I don’t know how he did some of that magic! For fun he also created another “mash-up” of the song Gimme My DaM Data and photos from the day – I’ll add that at bottom.)

At the start you’ll see the introduction by Karolinska’s Pär Hoglund and Sara Riggare. Pär is, among other things, one of Sara’s academic supervisors. Sara is a Parkinsons patient (highly activated e-patient) and member of the Society for Participatory Medicine; she was the ringleader of this invitation, as she also was for my World Parkinson Congress talk, which I blogged about last November.

As I said, the purpose in this case was to kindle some significantly new thoughts in a super-sharp audience of academics and innovators in the Swedish system. Did it work? Well, yesterday I learned that they’ve decided to translate my book Let Patients Help into Swedish. I’d say that’s a win.:-)

Continue reading →

On the road to Medicare, part 2: comic relief:-)

If you can’t see the video, click here to open it on YouTube.

Second in a series of posts as I approach Medicare in February. Part 1 was here.

Thanks immensely to long-ago co-worker Harry Zane, now an experienced Medicare participant, for this 15 minutes of standup comedy. I didn’t just laugh out loud; I hooted.:-)

The “comic” is Fritz Coleman, who (it says) is an icon in LA broadcasting – longtime weather person. Say hi to him on Twitter at @FritzNBCLA.

They did some odd editing in random places, inserting pictures of conference participants on top of the video, with no connection to what he was saying. Don’t let it throw you – enjoy. (My favorite was the smiling young nun whose face appeared as he was describing his 95 year old mother!)

Talks in Stockholm – the Land of Nobel

I’ve been traveling (and recovering) enough that I’ve not blogged as much as I want. I’ll weasel out of that:-) by posting some videos. Here’s the first post.

Digital Health Days – Stockholm
(20 minute opening keynote,
tying our movement to the history
of the Nobel Prize in Medicine)

This is almost a completely new talk. Stockholm is the home of Karolinska Insitute, which is the home of the Nobel Prize. On the day before my talk, wife Ginny and I went to the Nobel Museum and looked at the exhibits about the winners of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

Trying to do the opening keynote for a two day conference in twenty minutes is a bitch of an assignment, frankly. I left 1/3 of my talk in the hotel room (not enough time) and still had to skip 1/3 of my slides. For this audience, my talk touched only lightly on my cancer story – I quickly jumped into lessons I found in the Nobel stories. My intent was to convey:

  • The world truly has changed. The nature of how we know things – and can know things - is different from thirty years ago.
  • Even in the best of establishment medicine, resisting change has sometimes cost us decades of progress. Beware of this. Be open to new realities.
  • Patients are the ultimate stakeholder. They have the most at stake, and can contribute real value in new ways.

My voice starts out dry and scratchy – speakers, don’t forget to hydrate!  (Subscribers, if you can’t see the video, click here to view it online)

Other resources from the event:

(I was blown away by how fast the videos were posted!  My talk was at 9:30 a.m. and it was edited, with slides, and posted on YouTube by lunch!  The conference world has much to learn from this AV team from

Six month countdown to Medicare! What do I need to know?

65th birthday cake by Oana Go (Germany). Click to view project on Craftsy.

65th birthday cake by Oana Go (Germany). Click to view project on Craftsy.

Yesterday I blogged about my business’s fifth birthday … and this week, it turns out, marks six months before I turn 65!

And that means I go on Medicare.

I’ve learned enough in these five years to know at least two things:

  • You’re a patsy if you think the American medical system will necessarily take care of you. It might, but if it does, it may be in the process of making itself a boodle of money.
    • Yes, there are many exceptions – individuals and organizations who care and who work hard. But I’ll repeat: you’re a patsy if you sit back and assume the system will take good care of you.
  • When it comes to money in American healthcare, don’t expect anything to be explained clearly.
    • 18 months ago I blogged about a famous policy paper, Hospital Pricing in America: Chaos Behind A Veil of Secrecy by Princeton economist Uwe Reinhardt. That paper was published 8 years ago, and hardly anything has changed. (The title of the article is real and not an exaggeration.)
    • In 2013 I lived the chaos and the veil myself, in my own shopping for everything from CT scans to shingles vaccines to skin cancer treatments. I saw at close range that Reinhardt was not exaggerating, and I blogged it in a series called  “cost-cutting edition.”

There are signs of hope, such as ClearHealthCosts, but although I work for change, I’m not waiting for the posse to save me.:-)  I’m gonna be pro-active, engaged, empowered, responsible! I want to get educated, because I’ll be on Medicare for the rest of my life. And I want to approach the education from the patient’s perspective … not what the system wants to tell me, but what people like me have found necessary.

So, you who’ve been through it: what do I need to be aware of? What choices will I need to make?

I do know these things about Medicare: Continue reading →

I’m 5! (Well, is…)

5th birthday candle

By Andrew Eick on Flicker. Licensed for re-use with attribution.

It is a time of celebration.

Since creating this domain five years ago (2009!) I’ve done:

  • 242 speeches
  • 36 panels
  • 30 policy meetings
  • 68 participant in other events
  • 18 countries

and authored or co-authored:

  • 304 blog posts (including this one)
  • 7 posts on my Forbes blog
  • 472 posts on (and 106 more on that site, before this “birthday”)
  • Two books: Laugh, Sing and Eat Like a Pig and Let Patients Help: A Patient Engagement Handbook (with Dr. Danny Sands)
  • Seven articles and papers (BMJ, iHealthbeat, SGIM Forum (twice), Aspen Institute booklet, Patient Safety & Quality Healthcare, ACM Interactions)

and acquired on social media:

  • 21,400 more Twitter followers
  • 2,000 Facebook friends
  • 500+ LinkedIn connections (they won’t seem to say more than that!)
  • Klout impact score of 80
  • … while spending $0 on traditional advertising.

And 150 media mentions.

Well, that explains a lot… I couldn’t have done it without you people paying attention and spreading the word. Thank you!

And, looking forward…

… stay tuned for tomorrow’s post on what’s next in life.


It’s the 2014 MITSS “Hope” award season. Nominate! Attend!

MITSS HOPE award logoIt’s that time again!  I’ve attended this event three times, and I’m always touched and moved by how many good people have responded to a real setback – a medical “adverse event,” as they’re so euphemistically called.

MITSS is Medically Induced Trauma Support Services – for both the patient victims of medical accidents (including family) and the clinicians involved, for whom accidents can be severely traumatizing too.

MITSS founder Linda Kenney almost died from an all-too-possible accident … a local anesthetic got into a blood vessel and stopped her heart; she woke up three days later in an ICU. Out of that experience – and the healing that eventually happened with both her family and the involved anesthesiologist – she started MITSS. Linda won’t call herself a hero, but I will … same for her partner, Winnie Tobin. (They’re on Twitter as @MITSS_Support.)

Do you know someone who’s responded to such an event by Supporting Healing and Restoring Hope?  That’s what the MITSS HOPE award is about.  The process isn’t hard – you just write a 500-1000 word essay, and fill in a form as described here.

Please participate.  Here’s a bit more, from the award’s home page:

Continue reading →

US News: 10 Tips from Empowered Patients. (Mine: the basics of empowerment)

Screen capture of US News web headlineLast week US News & World Report ran a “slide show” (series of short pages) with tips from 10 empowered patients. They’re all good – I recommend you go read them. (Click the graphic, or click here.)

Knowing that other patients would be giving lots of tips, for mine I decided to focus in mine on something that’s been on my mind a lot lately:

We’ve learned that the patient movement shares patterns with other cultural awakenings. Who knew?

I’m 64 years old. In the ’60s I learned that step one of empowerment is to know what you want. Step two is consciousness raising: Realize who’s saying what to whom, and what assumptions that might imply. Perhaps it’s what you’d like; if not, step three is to ask for it. 

Enlightened patients (and clinicians) know that nobody knows everything – neither patient nor clinician – and approach it as a partnership, in what we call ‘participatory medicine.’

It feels a little odd to be teaching empowerment principles (which I learned in college long ago) to a mass market audience, but increasingly I see this is what we need to do.

This is no small issue – it’s not just about patient rights per se. If people haven’t thought about what they want, and haven’t become conscious of what’s happening around them, and haven’t asked for what they want, then when advocates request change, earnest physicians have every right to say, “Look, my patients aren’t asking for this.”

So think about what you want, and see whether things are going the way you want.  That applies both in a hospital and in a doctor’s office – anytime you’re tending to someone’s health, including your own.