NPR featured a story called, “How the Modern Patient Drives Up Health Care Costs” on October 12, 2009. The theme connected dots between so-called consumer-driven health care and patients who demand the latest in health technology which may not be appropriate or even useful, thus driving up costs unnecessarily.
NPR attributes three driving forces in building The Modern Patient:
1. Direct-to-consumer advertising for prescription drugs, beginning in the middle-1980s; this exposed health citizens to medication names and conditions which motivated some consumers to ask for specific medications and question physicians’ choice of other meds.
2. The adoption of the Internet, which expanded access to boundless health information online for virtually free.
3. Health consumers with more ‘skin in the game,’ meaning more financial responsibility in paying for health plans, visits to providers, and treatments.
According to NPR’s research, it’s hard for doctors to say ‘no’ to demanding health consumer-patients.
Health Populi’s Hot Points: Do demanding health consumers lead to increased costs in the U.S. health system? Perhaps. There’s anecdotal data and stories shared on Sermo, but there’s not been a well-vetted study to prove this.
The ideal scenario is an engaged patients who is well-informed with the right information at the right time, shared in collaboration with a smart, effective and efficient health provider-coach. The right information at the right time will be available when we have data liquidity: good data gathered (and gather-able) from the range of clinical sites the patient encounters: the lab, the physician’s office, the pharmacy, the clinic, and the home where a patient might be monitoring her numbers.
U.S. health citizens can’t seem to win in media stories on health consumerism: we’re either painted as lazy couch potatoes who don’t engage in our health, or we’re cyberchondriacs who force physicians to prescribe ineffective tests and inappropriate drugs.
The reality is the scenario of The Modern Patient isn’t so bipolar. No better time, then, to welcome the new Journal of Participatory Medicine. On Twitter, we’ll be using the hashtag #WhyPM (for “participatory medicine”) to discuss the journal’s launch and to track ongoing dialogue on this emerging movement. See Gilles Frydman’s post on “Why PM?” on e-patients.net to learn more about the launch of the Journal and the rationale for launching it at this point in health citizen history.

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