Who knows what

You know that cynical old saying:

It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.

In other words, knowing the right person provides you strategic advantage in business, social advancement, etc.

In health, it was often true. Knowing who the better doctors were, for instance, in your city might provide you with access to better care.

Enter the Information Age. You now have access to medical information equal to that of your doctor. You now have access to patient discussions about doctors, their practices, their performance records. There is now a depth and breadth of information on health that was never available before.

I’d therefore turn the old saying into the new Health 2.0 version:

It’s not who you know, it’s what you know.

In health, information now reigns supreme, not knowing somebody else who has the right connections.

Positive: Everybody now theoretically has access to an equal amount of information, since you can access information on any topic just as easily as I can.

Negative: It puts more of the burden on you. If you screw up in health, perhaps you didn’t try to get the best information hard enough.

I love this new development, this emergence of empowerment in health. I call it self-directed health, the individual capacity to exert enormous influence over the quality of your healthcare.

This is obviously a work in progress. All the answers and tools for self-directed care, self-empowerment are not yet available, some haven’t even yet been imagined.

But they are coming.

Comments (4) -

  • Jenny

    9/4/2008 6:55:00 PM |

    Dr. Davis,

    The big problem with this change is that I am still paying MY doctor big bucks to give me prescriptions that result from my many hours of totally unpaid research.

    If I didn't have to pay over $7,000 a year for "health care" that is mostly me doing my own research I would feel much more excited about this new turn of events.

    But until the doctors start paying ME for doing all the work it takes to keep myself healthy I'm not going to be as excited.

    My docs, alas, even the "good ones" seem to get 99% of their "medical education" from drug company reps and the rest from newsletters that treat as news  the latest drug company PR released about drugs.

    Even specialists seem to be way behind the online patient support community. For example, I have yet to hear of a gastroenterologist who knows that cutting wheat out of the diet can usually eliminate acid reflux. And we all know most docs are still pushing high carb/low fat diets on people with diabetes.

  • Anonymous

    9/4/2008 7:47:00 PM |

    I think that this will be a positive factor in the future but there are many of us well-informed patients who have been dismissed by our doctors for daring to question said doctor's recommendations.  Will this change?  I think not.....

  • Nancy R.

    9/5/2008 2:04:00 AM |

    Dr. Davis, your optimism is wonderful. But alas, it's hard to find doctors such as yourself to compliment the information patients can now arm themselves with.

    As an adjunct to this "empowered patient" age, I'd like to see some online databases created that list names of enlightened doctors grouped by geographical region. It can be so hard, armed with the knowledge I have, to find doctors who want to work with me, not fight me. It's difficult to find doctors who really want to partner with you to find the path to health, not just parrot the party line and prescribe some useless medication.

    Perhaps is just a matter of time...

  • Ricardo Carvalho

    9/9/2008 12:03:00 AM |

    I remember once seeing a milk advertisement on TV where a very beautiful lady used to say: "If I don't worry about my self, who will?". Each one has the responsibility of taking care of his own health and, desirably, of the people surrounding himself. So, I really don't mind spending a few hours studying whatever the subject to help me and others, and it doesn't matter if this is paid or not. What I want is doctors who are technically excellent and independent from insurance and drug companies. We don't have the first one in Portugal, but we fortunately still have much of the second, because our national health service is still based in solidarity and respect for human dignity (I've recently seen Michael Moore's "Sicko", but I'll not comment on this). I think the so called "empowerment of health" that Dr. Davis refers to is even more important in the countries where people have low resources and difficult or no access at all to proper healthcare. We use to say around here that "ignorance is the cause of all evil". The opposite is also true: education, access to books, information, will always be the key to improve human overall quality of life.