One of the joys of active social-media involvement is quickly and readily connecting with people – interesting, generous, accomplished people. Three days after I first noticed “e-Patient Dave” deBronkart’s tweets, and admired his perspective, knowledge and good humor, I was interviewing him on the phone.
Although my beloved AP Stylebook demands I refer to him as “deBronkart” on second reference, I can’t help but call him anything but e-Patient Dave.
After beating Stage IV kidney cancer, e-Patient Dave became a full-time activist, advocating for health care transformation through participatory medicine and personal health data rights. Earlier this summer, e-Patient Dave participated in the policy meetings in Washington which helped define “meaningful use” for the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act, or HITECH. e-Patient Dave feels strongly that patients should be able to access their own medical data, check it for errors, question it, and take it with them to another care provider if necessary.
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I wanted to talk to e-Patient Dave about Health Information Exchange and Electronic Health Records, the changes they’ll bring to health care and, most of interest to me, the implications for marketers. He concurs: HIE and EHRs present a “terrific opportunity to transform health care marketing. If you resonate with this idea, you will be way ahead of people in your trade. People who understand will have an enormous advantage.”
One of the advantages he foresees is message targeting. According to e-Patient Dave, marketers and organizations that target messages to different patient segments will have a tremendous head start. e-Patients – shorthand for empowered, engaged, equipped and enabled patients – demand and need different information than patients like his dying father, who didn’t want to know anything about his condition, medications or treatments.
e-Patient Dave’s major concern about the HIE opportunity for marketers, not surprisingly, is privacy. In the view of the strictest privacy advocates, the arrival of an email or postcard could disclose to someone, maybe even your mail carrier, that you might have a particular condition. As HITECH rolls out, more discussions are going on in Washington about exactly what marketers will be allowed to do. Obviously, it’s clear that marketers should not, and will not, have access to a patient’s medical history solely for the purpose of marketing.
However, e-Patient Dave acknowledges there are borderline cases where a pharmacy knows you have particular condition, or take a particular medicine, and there are some gray areas in privacy regulations about whether an organization could then offer you something that’s reasonably related. This is exactly why I’m interested. Marketers, believe or not, have a role in fostering health, and an important role to play in America’s health care system: Helping patients find health resources, treatments, providers and technology.