Editor’s note: I’m enthusiastic enough about this that it may sound like a commercial, but it’s not, except that it’s a great example of the change I want to see in the world! I have no stake in this, and The Medical Futurist Institute makes no money on this, including related services. It’s a public service.
As patient empowerment spreads and gains acceptance, I’ve repeatedly observed an important gap: patients and clinicians, especially in primary care, are not sure what to do about this big “internet” thing. It’s not enough to encourage googling, because there’s junk on the internet. The best of all worlds is when my trusted authority – my primary care provider – is also my trusted guide to apps and websites.
But how do we structure these discussions? Most clinicians have had no training.
The Medical Futurist Institute, headed by my friend and colleague Bertalan Meskó MD, PhD, has developed a practical solution: a button and sticker providers can wear (or post on a window) saying “Ask Me About Digital.” They are offering buttons and stickers free, worldwide, to encourage adoption of digital health practices by clinicians and patients everywhere. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The program encourages patients to speak up, as I did during my cancer: when I got information from other patients that seemed reasonable, I didn’t hide it from my oncology team, I asked what they thought about it. That’s patient-clinician partnership, just as it says on their website:
“The mission of The Medical Futurist Institute is to initiate public discussions about how the old paradigm of the paternalistic model of medicine is transforming into equal partnership between patients and professionals and how it is aided and augmented by disruptive technologies.”
The invitation “ask me about digital” starts a conversation, so the sticker is accompanied by this guide to help start the discussion – a 19 page PDF of advice for clinicians on how to implement the badge (and the question) in their practice. As it says:
The ultimate goal of the Ask Me About Digital badge is to facilitate the doctor-patient communication through the power of technology, to help patients make sense of online health information and to guide them through the available pool of smartphone apps, health sensors or wearables.
The AskMeAboutDigital page includes
- “For patients: If you see the Ask Me About Digital sticker on your GP’s door that means you can…”
- “For physicians: If you are a general practitioner and you stick the Ask Me About Digital badge on your door…”
- A great 2014 article on why clinicians should become their patients’ “hub” for digital health information. (Why not?? Ideally they’re a hub for all health information.)
- A 2015 article in which only a minority of patients were aware of digital services offered by their PCP / GP.
- If you want customize yours, the guide includes instructions on Stickermule – you can get a set of ten adhesive stickers for $9. (StickerMule is nifty – I’d never heard of it! They also make custom buttons for as little as $22 for ten.)
Here’s to the future and those with their eyes there!
My work, frankly, is to help create the arriving future, so I love encountering others doing the same. “Berci” (Dr. Meskó) is one: constantly out on the leading edge and creating useful tools, projects like The Medical Futurist Institute, broadcasts and messages. He’s got a gift for arousing curiosity and being practical with advice that speaks to the curiosity – the hallmark of a gifted teacher.
In this way he’s got a lot in common with Lucien Engelen, who organized my TEDx in 2011 and last year wrote the amazing book I reviewed recently, Augmented Health(care). In different generations, each of us is working to connect the present to the arriving future. I love encountering minds like theirs and looking forward together.