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Your Health Story Matters To Doctors. Here’s why.

A few days ago I wrote about “How To Own & Control Your Medical Records”,  and after writing this piece I thought it was important to hear from some doctors. How important is understanding and telling a complete health story and would they consider this crucial to effective health care?

While reading these answers, you might find yourself as inspired as I have become!

 

Some background. 

Many years ago Dr Christopher Pearce, (honorary Senior Lecturer, Department of General Practice, University of Melbourne, Australia) was the first doctor I read about (I later talked with him about the value in this) describing health stories in this manner…“Patients tell us stories – and we must not lose the narrative.”

“Physicians think in stories”, says Dr C.T. Lin, a practicing internist and Chief Medical Information Officer for the University of Colorado Hospital in Denver.

There has even been a book written about this, called “How Doctors Think”.  “Instead, he began to question, and listen, and observe, and then to think differently about Anne’s case. And by doing so, he saved her life, because for fifteen years a key aspect of her illness had been missed”.

Finally, Lucy Hornstein, MD   “Imagine that someone is telling you a story…What are your prerequisites? First, you need to know a lot of stories. Because you can’t help the storyteller if you’ve never heard of his story.”

Dr Hornstein then goes on to clearly describe how Doctors figure out a patient story…

“There are two basic cognitive strategies to figuring out the story. At first, when you don’t know many stories or what you can do to modify the scary ones, you do something called “hypothesis testing.” You take the first story that pops into your head and start asking all kinds of questions specifically about that story. Once you decide that’s not it, you take the next most likely one and start specifically seeking information to confirm or deny it. And so on. Thinking about it in terms of trying to figure out which fairy tale someone is telling you helps you appreciate the inefficiency of this approach. The strategy used by experienced clinicians is called “pattern recognition.”

In other words, your health story is the key to both your doctor, as well as you, understanding your health status – and that includes any caregivers you have. Lab tests and Evidence-Based Medicine probabilities are not enough; and of course Electronic Medical Records don’t tell stories at all – they are mainly accounting machines to calculate billing codes, so that the right people in the system get paid based on that billing code.

And now you know why we have invested 12 years to build a heath story ‘telling-machine’, which creates easy pattern recognition on a single web page, over any time period, so that whomever needs to understand your health story can do so quickly and easily!

The future of healthcare depends on ensuring we don’t just lose patient narratives in the great digitization of medicine, but enhance these stories and make them even easier to read, whenever, wherever, and by whomever is authorized by the patient to view them. Better patient stories don’t just assist our health professionals in treating us, they help us as patients understand and tell a better health story than we may have otherwise. Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to keeping healthy.

I believe one day we will look back on 2015 as the key Tipping Point where ubiquitous cloud computing, mobile devices and sensors, as well as access to medical data, now puts health in the consumer’s own hands. It means that, for the first time the means to produce, hold, understand, and utilize all of their health data for better health outcomes. Healthcare is one of the last industries to empower its end consumers – we all have seen what consumer-focused IT has done in industries such as travel, finance, relationships, publishing, video, and all forms of information exchange. It is now healthcare’s turn – and Lifetime Health Diary is the most comprehensive solution yet created, allowing that dream to come true. It’s our time.

 

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