"Patients are the most underutilized resource, and they have the most at stake. They want to be involved and they can be involved. Their participation will lead to better medical outcomes at lower costs with dramatically higher patient/customer satisfaction."
Charles Safran, MD, spoke these words in 2004 as president of the American Medical Informatics Association during his testimony before Congress. Ten years later, there remains an urgent need for patients to play an active role in the health care system, says Larry Chu, MD, founder of the Stanford Medicine X conference, which took place last September. Now in its third year, Stanford Medicine X explores the ways in which emerging technologies can enhance the practice of medicine, improve health and empower patients to participate in their own care.
One of the big ideas that pervaded almost every aspect of the conference was the importance of online patient communities. According to Chu, today's health care professionals should be aware that patients are turning to these communities for information. As such, he says, physicians should consider how they can collaborate and interact with these online resources.
Many presenters also discussed the medical team of the future, describing ways in which patients can partner with health care providers, hospitals, pharmacists and all stakeholders as valued members of the health care team. In pharmaceutical research, for example, patients are providing input to researchers early and often in the drug development process, paving the way for more effective treatments that are designed with the user in mind.
Multiple presentations throughout Medicine X also addressed the importance of accessible health data, for individual patients and for the patient community in aggregate.