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HiNZ KEYNOTE: Patients and doctors should be partners in healthcare

Tuesday, 3 October 2017  
Posted by: Website Administrator
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Patients should work in partnership with their doctors to manage their own health, internationally renowned keynote speaker ‘e-Patient Dave’ will tell health and informatics professionals in New Zealand next month.

Dave deBronkart is one of the world’s leading advocates for patient engagement and is being brought to New Zealand by HiNZ, in conjunction with Waitemata District Health Board and Revera Cloud Services NZ.

He will be a keynote speaker at the Health Informatics New Zealand annual conference in Rotorua from November 1-3 2017 and the closing keynote speaker at the NZ Nursing Informatics Conference on November 2.

Dave’s outlook on the traditional role of patients and doctors drastically changed after he was diagnosed in January 2007 with late stage kidney cancer. His prognosis was grim with a median survival rate of just 24 weeks.

However, his last treatment was in July of that year and by September he had beaten the disease.

Known now as ‘e-Patient Dave’, his core message is about the importance of patients being involved in their patient information.

“Ten years ago, I was miraculously saved from almost certain death. My advice for people is to be actively involved as consumers of healthcare, as people who need and purchase and use medical services,” he says.

Dave believes in ‘Participatory Medicine’, saying that while patients usually are not doctors, they can ask questions, take positive action and try to understand as much as possible about their condition. In this way, they become partners in creating and managing their own health.

He says his message is not country-specific as digital health is borderless, but that he tries to listen to his audience and local concerns.

“I’m the sort of evangelist where I don’t just go around preaching my gospel, hoping someone will want to hear it, but listening to what’s on people’s minds because my purpose is to alter how people see what’s possible,” he explains.

He compares the cultural shift happening in healthcare to the women’s movement of the 1960s and 1970s where a group of people, who were previously thought unable to do something, gained insight and information and agitated for change.

“It’s a mistake to think that because people in certain groups have not done something, they’re not capable of it,” Dave explains.

“When constraints are removed, new things become possible. That’s what we’re seeing now with digital health information being available to patients.”

Dave argues that while some doctors may feel threatened by this cultural shift, patients do not have the clinical training to replace them and increased patient involvement can vastly improve the care doctors provide.

His personal story is a great example of this: “I was actively involved in my cancer case, but I certainly couldn’t have diagnosed myself or have done surgery to remove my kidney,” Dave explains.

“This is not about patients not needing doctors, but about patients becoming more meaningful partners.”

Well informed and educated patients can take pressure off doctors as they are able to research their symptoms and conditions and chat to fellow patients or other health professionals online.

Engaged patients can also contribute more to getting and staying healthy. Dave uses wearables and apps to track his diet, exercise and sleep and has been amazed at the difference this has made to his general health and wellbeing.

He acknowledges that not all patients are easy to engage or necessarily want to be empowered, but says that is why conferences such as HiNZ are so important.

“There are no easy answers to these questions, but with keynote speakers you have someone at the frontier saying, ‘look what we can see if we stand right here on the edge’,” Dave says.

Hear e-Patient Dave and 27 other keynotes speak at the 2017 HiNZ Conference, 1-3 November in Rotorua.

The HiNZ Conference is New Zealand's largest digital health event. In 2016 over 1100 delegates from 20 countries attended the HiNZ Conference in Auckland. 

Find out more >>

*e-Patient Dave’s TED talk was for years in the top half of the most watched TED talks of all time. You can view it here.

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