Jewels Doskicz is a registered nurse, freelance writer, patient advocate, health coach, and long-distance cyclist. Jewels is the moderator of Diabetic Connect’s weekly #DCDE Twitter chat, and she and her daughter both live healthfully with type 1 diabetes.

What’s ‘the elephant in the examination room’? The internet is.

Or so says Peter Conrad, a sociologist at Brandeis University, who speaks on the developing authority of the internet and its influence in healthcare. The spontaneous flow of information at our fingertips has changed the playing field for providers from their traditional role of pitcher to catcher.
The advantageous slant once held by medical providers privy to hidden information is now gone because that information is now easily accessible to patients across the globe in seconds.

With Dr. Google on our side, many patients have become experts in their disease niche, sometimes approaching appointments with information their providers have yet to come across themselves. Riva Greenburg refers to these patients as “unexpected, critical new members of the diabetes team” and the “the highly informed or smart patient”.

Information Sharing

Like it or not, social media sharing amongst disease communities and through peer-to-peer interactions provides patients with a unique look into the management of their disease. Through Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, disease-specific websites and blogs, and other platforms, the stream of knowledge is virtually endless and incredibly informative.

These social environments have proven to empower patients in very positive ways. Patients are not only taking ownership, but also control of their chronic disease — it is ours after all.

‘Patients as experts’ is certainly a new and evolving concept for providers to embrace. Depending on one’s approach and the provider’s willingness to engage, the interaction can be a smooth experience fostering a wonderful alliance, or could feel like sandpaper and abrade the relationship altogether.

One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to long-term relationships with healthcare providers. Finding the right fit is important; our health depends upon it.

Meeting in the Middle

The reality is that patients are arriving at appointments ready for negotiation. With education on their side, the dynamic has shifted away from them being told what to do to them being active participants in the decision making process. Some people may find themselves teaching their providers about new technologies, research, or disease management tools.

How do we meet in the middle?

Instead of scolding patients, Stanford School of Medicine suggests we “applaud them for their initiative to take part of their health care, for their enterprise and interest to learn about their condition, for their correct intuition to follow up with their physicians.”

Keep These in Mind:

• Pat yourself on the back for your extra efforts of educating yourself on your condition.
• Educated and empowered patients decrease costs of service though knowledge and skilled diabetes management.
• Oftentimes our ideas may be the best ideas when incorporated into daily living.
• Patients benefit practitioners from the ground level up. We can teach what it’s like to live with
and to be a parent of a child with chronic disease; all it takes is a listening ear.
• We’re the active voice of diabetes and it’s vital that providers know what’s important to us in managing this illness.
• By sharing quality online resources with providers, they can, in turn, help other patients struggling with the very same issues.

To learn more about patient empowerment:

Diabetes: Three Things You Need to Know About Patient Empowerment
First-Hand Stories: How These Patients Beat Diabetes Burnout
Social Media: A Portable Approach to Diabetes Self-Care