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Patients Shouldn’t be Trusted with Their Own Vital Data

I was reading a recent issue of The Economist that talked about possible innovation of something akin to a medical tricorder, and there was a paragraph about the amount of resistance from the medical establishment because it does not believe that patients could be trusted with their own data:

Not everyone is excited about patients taking matters into their own hands. Health care is a very paternalistic industry, and “physicians don’t want patients to become independent and too empowered,” says Mr Wasden of PwC. “The medical community has always been very conservative,” says Yan Chow, director of innovation and advanced technology at Kaiser Permanente, a non-profit health-care provider. “It’s very hard to change things.”

Moreover, doctors may be reluctant to use data collected by patients. Instead of measuring vital signs at an annual check-up, they could find themselves being asked to examine huge data sets created by patients—raising the question of legal liability if something is missed. “The irony is that a doctor is more comfortable with the liability in a system that does not have rich data than in a system that does have rich data,” says Mr Wasden. Another difficulty is that electronic health records are not designed to allow for the inclusion of patient-generated data, says Dr Chow.
“As medicine becomes more of an information science, some tasks could be taken on by patients.”

Some of the new diagnostic tools may be financially threatening to doctors, especially in disciplines such as optometry, dermatology and paediatrics, says Dr Topol. Why would you visit a specialist, he asks, when a mobile device lets you test your eyes, diagnose skin lesions or determine whether your child has an ear infection? But as medicine becomes more of an information science, some mundane and simple tasks could be taken over by patients, which could free up doctors for more demanding problems, argues Mr Jones.

I’m wondering how long the stronghold of the establishment can keep.

One of the upside of social media and technology is that patients are beginning to self-educate AND self-advocate (instead of only “self-medicate” as in days past) — and once we have a level of awareness, we start asking questions about what’s happening with our care and what’s happening with our vital data.

Even infants grow up one day to expect a level of self-reliance from their fathers.

Dear medical establishment, you can’t infantilize patients forever, even in the name of “patients’ own good.”

Updated: June 30, 2013 — 8:03 am

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