You go to a conference, hear many great speakers, take some notes, learn about some new firms, make new connections, and catch up with colleagues. There are usually one or two key takeaways. Those stories or presentations that make a significant impression on you.
At the New England HIMSS Chapter Annual Spring Conference last week, that moment came during the session by Dave DeBronkart (known as e-Patient Dave) and Dr. Daniel (Danny) Sands, his primary care physician and faculty member at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Together they were two of the 12 founders of the Society for Participatory Medicine and the inaugural co-chairs.
Prior to the conference, I knew who e-Patient Dave was and had seen his posts on social media, but I had never heard his personal story nor met him. Their session demonstrated the power of storytelling at its best. Now I understand why Dave is so passionate about patient engagement.
The session, “Hot or Not? A Doctor and Patient Role-Play the Archaic and the Modern Way to Engage” was a combination of role play and presentation. Dave started by describing the moment when he was diagnosed with a stage 4 cancer in 2007 following an incidental finding from a shoulder x-ray. He learned early in his journey that the median time left for a patient with his diagnosis was 24 weeks. He thought then that he had at most 6 months to live. That got my attention!
Using roleplay to illustrate what may be the typical patient-physician interaction vs what should be a true patient-physician partnership, they covered communications (email, texting), patients doing their own online research and sharing information with their physician, timely access to results on a patient portal, and disease-specific online support groups.
The Society for Participatory Medicine focuses on the power of partnership between patients/families and clinicians. They describe “Participatory Medicine” as a movement in which patients and health professionals actively collaborate and encourage one another as full partners in healthcare. They believe this leads to improved health outcomes, greater satisfaction, and lower costs.
As Dave said, you can use many descriptors for the e-patient – engaged, equipped, empowered, educated, or enlightened. He believes he survived cancer because he had access to information and acted on it as an engaged patient. Let that sink in. Of course, having specialized cancer care available to him was critical.
I teared up along with Dave during his closing remarks. Remember, he was diagnosed with a stage 4 cancer 12 years ago. He showed a picture of him walking his daughter down the aisle in recent years and another one holding his first grandchild.
The theme for the conference was “Care Across the Continuum and Consumer Health.” There were other excellent sessions covering care management and predictive analytics, physician burnout, open source code and the integrated healthcare team.
But the session that Dave and Danny did was the only one to get a standing ovation. No surprise.