Monday 23 March 2009

BMJ: "demand for online health information unstoppable"

Fiona Godlee, the editor of the British Medical Journal, writes this week: "anyone who has been or supported a patient in the past few years will know that medicine finds it hard to shake off its paternalistic tendencies. There is a long way to go before patients truly control the important decisions about their health care."

In the same issue the Chair of NHS Direct, Joanne Shaw, concludes: "Not only is the demand for online health information unstoppable, it should be welcomed and encouraged as good for patients and doctors alike."

Both these statements are so patently true to anyone who has had any interaction with healthcare (as a patient, carer or working in healthcare), and who really understands the many powerful ways in which the internet provides the unstoppable power of disruptive transformation needed to put patients at the heart of healthcare. The real surprise is that the medical profession is only just waking up to what most other industries and professions realised years ago.

The same issue contains an article by the founder of iWantGreatCare, Dr Neil Bacon, describing the evidence base for making the views of patients central to measures of quality in healthcare, and agreeing with Joanne Shaw, that the online route is unstoppable and will provide huge benefits for both patients and healthcare workers.

The very fact that there is today a need for these articles will soon become a quaint museum piece, used by the patients and doctors of tomorrow to laugh at the protectionist, fearful and luddite tendencies of parts of the medical profession to resist the inevitable, in their efforts to protect an out-dated power-base.

The very best doctors, healthcare managers and modern Trusts are already using iWantGreatCare and related online tools and services to better understand and meet the needs of their patients. The rest will follow.

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