By Dave deBronkart
International keynote speaker and cancer survivor Dave deBronkart is the best known spokesman for the e-patient movement: empowered, engaged, equipped, enabled.
If the goal of communication is to have information arrive and stick at the receiving end, then anything that gets in the way is a corrupter. It wastes bandwidth on content that adds no value; worse, it consumes energy at the receiving end. When the receiver is a patient who’s already taxed by medical trouble, that’s not just inefficient, it’s a little bit mean.
We can do better.
That’s why I’ve said, in my blogging and in Let Patients Help: clarity is power. That was my post to open this series last year. I’ve even said I won’t discuss health literacy without measuring the clarity of the content. Yet at conference after conference I see “literacy” bemoaned by think-tank people who should know better.
What’s going on?
I’ve talked to those people, and to a large extent it’s because they were taught that literacy is problem, and they don’t realize they could solve it on the sending end. They could become the beacon from the lighthouse that cuts through the fog and be the source of clarity. Instead, they blame the victim, who’s still in the dark.
It’s not the first time this has happened as knowledge and tools have democratized power.
Are your patients “too stupid to own a computer”?
I’ve worked in high tech most of my life, so I’ve seen how this script plays out. A new population gains access to something, and at first they don’t understand.
Whose problem is that?
It never ends well for the industry’s abusive suppliers; their butts are kicked by providers who simplify, and the arrogant pioneers fade to cult specialists. (Think about cars with a stick shift: they’re great to drive but harder, and most people don’t need them anymore.)
Today most of us have home computers, and most don’t call tech support. But when PCs were new, there were tech support stories of users who thought their CD drive was a cup holder, or who put a floppy into their copier when asked to “send a copy of the file.”
It’s perverse and sad that the company works to bring in business, then support dumps abuse on the people who bought in. That’s the classic John Cleese video “Who sold you THIS, then??” Here’s a promo clip: