The Healthcare Reformation

The Healthcare Reformation

What sits behind the rise of Digital Health is not ultimately about technology.  It goes far deeper.  Fundamentally, we’re seeing a significant cultural shift in healthcare, driven by patients and carers.  Through the internet, mobile devices and Digital Health Communities we’re seeing the democratisation of medical knowledge.

Knowledge that was previously only available to and understandable by health providers (an educated elite) is increasingly being opened up to health consumers, many of whom are capable of understanding and synthesising large amounts of this information.  This in turn is leading to engagement, empowerment, and the disruption of traditional patterns of decision making in healthcare.

But is it safe, I hear you ask.  No, not always.  Can it bring about positive disruptive change where a patient’s views and desires are elevated?  You bet it can.  Will that disruptive change be pain free?  No, it won’t.  Is it changing the relationships between patients, carers and clinicians?  Absolutely.

The only way to truly understand the significance of this change is by analogy.  The protestant reformation was arguably made possible by Tyndale’s bible and the printing press, allowing English translations of the bible to be distributed widely.  Whereas previously, the only access to scripture had been in Latin, via the priesthood, who told their congregations only what they “needed to know”, the democratisation of biblical knowledge drove deep, uncomfortable change which was an enabler of the protestant reformation.

By way of comparison, it’s interesting to note the language and abbreviations used in medical prescriptions.  Much of this language remains in Latin, the language of an elite group.  Now I’m not suggesting that it was designed to function in this way, but it’s certainly interesting to ponder how ongoing use of this language today holds a power over and works against patient engagement.

I believe that the democratisation of medical knowledge through the internet, mobile devices and Digital Health Communities will, over a number of years, drive a cultural change of comparable magnitude.  This is already changing the relationship between patients, carer and clinicians, and will continue to do so.

Exciting times for healthcare!

5 thoughts on “The Healthcare Reformation

  1. Well said, and noted that there are significant risks in sources of information and baseline understanding of it, certainly so in the US.

    As a licensed mental health practitioner, I have the luxury of real dialog with those I see for care. All of our work is patient centered and patient led or it is useless. There is one statement and there are two questions I ask of every person who enters my office, no matter how long I have worked with them: “Welcome.” “What brings you here for this appointment today?” (even if it is a long standing treatment plan repeated appointment). “Please fill me in on how things have been going since we last met.”

    To open this door allows the treatment participant to lead me through the wandering path of experiences, level of functioning, and barriers that allow me to be an informed, clinically rigorous consultant and, sometimes, an interactive educator. I often use the computer on my desk with them to explore information they have heard and to expand resources as well as offer concerns for misinformation. They, then, have further self-discovery objectives to promote and improve their own health.

    We are only treating/stroking ourselves to practice from a remote medical model stance that assumes we are to pour purely evidence based applications into an inert jar of symptoms, ignoring dynamics of life and the truth that evidence based information is only a starting point for care.

  2. I agree, although the breakthrough came through Gutenberg not Tyndale. Maybe this will play out as another analogy to the reformation: Looking back people will have different views on what ignited the change.

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