Putting the Patient in Charge: the future of healthcare
Giving patients control of their own medical records and putting them at the centre of their own healthcare management makes sense for patients, for clinicians and for healthcare institutions wishing to improve the bottom line. In creating Patients Know Best, the world’s first patient-controlled medical records system, I have met a number of inspiring people. One doctor I met in 2006 taught me a very valuable lesson about why patients should be put back in charge.
A doctor’s story
This US-based doctor told me a story about a patient of his who had come to his surgery with chest pains. In order to rule out serious heart problems, he sent the patient for a full body (CT) scan. When he received the patient’s results – one in a large pile of many – the top line summary did not have the diagnosis he was worried about. Understandably, the doctor moved on.
However, at that particular time, that same doctor was experimenting with giving his patients access to their medical records. The patient had been given a copy of his CT results too – not something that would normally happen. “What is a thyroid?” the patient emailed the doctor, “Why are you asking?” came the response. “Because the last line on the report says I have a ‘shadowing on the thyroid’.” Instantly the doctor knew what the radiologist had been trying to warn him about – the possibility of thyroid cancer. An urgent biopsy confirmed early stage cancer but it was caught before it could develop further. In this case, giving the patient his medical results had quite possibly saved his life.
The patient as an ‘asset’
From that day onwards, the doctor began asking all his patients to look at their medical records. The doctor was not unusual in making a mistake – all doctors are human, so all of them make mistakes. Rather he was unusual in considering all patients to be ‘assets’ in their own healthcare management. Each patient needs to be consulted and made use of wisely – collaboratively – when dealing with medical problems. In this particular case, the patient had far more time than the doctor to dig into the detail of his results. I know that to this date, this particular doctor doesn’t feel safe practicing if his patients haven’t had access to their full records. As a matter of course, this doctor routinely asks his patients to look at reports with him. He considers the patient to be an essential part of his or her own care – a principle and a value that lies at the heart of Patients Know Best.
“Giving patients back control is a means for clinicians and medical authorities across the world to solve many of the intractable problems they currently face – such as workload, safety and importantly, the ever-increasing cost of care”