As with other industries, the Do-It-Yourself movement has come to health care—and it’s getting stronger.
Unlike engine repair, craft brewing, or laying sheetrock, the barriers to entry for DIY-ers in health care are higher. The main barrier, medical knowledge, is lowering fast as autodidacts have more tools and information than ever before—as but two good examples, see Khan Academy or what’s known in the Twittersphere as #FOAMed–“Free Open Access Medical Education.”
Another big barrier has long been established by those that pay for health care–in the U.S., primarily insurers. They’ve had rules mandating that diagnostic testing be ordered by physicians, who then ‘control’ the results.
Last week, in a victory for self-motivated patients, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued a ruling giving patients the right to obtain lab results on their own from freestanding diagnostic labs–without needing the interpretation or control of information from a medical provider.
This is not likely to have a huge impact, as many if not most medical practices have adopted electronic health records and it’s now common practice to share test results directly with patients.
But for laggards that have not implemented secure data-sharing policies, a major incentive is now there as patients will be able to collect data back from the lab on their own. Much better from the provider perspective to get out in front of an ‘abnormal’ result.
How about you? Do you get your results from your doctor automatically, or do you wind up having to hunt them down? Does this new ruling make you more excited to take control of your own health information?
As a proponent of responsible DIY medicine, I love the idea put forth by Alex Beam in a column he wrote exploring the idea of writing your own obituary.
[The cynics chime in: “That’s where you’ll wind up if you try to “do” medicine yourself.”]
Former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, who died in February, had his obituary in the NY Times initially inked in 1996, more than a decade before he actually died.** Since he was a figure of historic importance, we can’t blame the paper for being well-prepared.
Folks interested in the do-it-yourself approach won’t likely need to go to such lengths to create their own obituaries. Columnist Beam gives a couple of great examples of folks that have made good on such efforts:
First, there are the Fellows of Cambridge University, rather fusty types who have apparently engaged in the practice for some time. Beam alludes to a description stating that many of those gents “are in a state that might be mistaken for death.” The act of composing their own obituaries “saves other people the bother of having to make up nice things about them.”
Another example is Doonesbury creator Garry Trudeau. Though still working his craft, he is well prepared:
Feb 3, 2035 — former New York Knicks point guard Garry Trudeau died peacefully in his home today following a particularly fine meal and a visit from his great-grandchildren. Mr. Trudeau, who enjoyed an early modest success as a cartoonist, is best remembered for his abrupt career change when he appeared unannounced at a Knicks tryout camp.
The mixture of self-deprecation and whimsy is delightful. I hope DIY obits catch on.
**This 2009 article from Slate gives a great window into how news agencies handle “advancers,” i.e. folks for whom obituaries are written in advance. Turns out old Dr. Koop was at the extraordinarily long end of the spectrum.
Taking medical care to the self level.
First there were contractors. Then came Home Depot.
Once we had accountants. Along came TurboTax.
Printers? Soon we had Kinkos, er, FedEx.
Even venerable old lawyers are being outsourced and replaced by do-it-yourself manuals and online services.
Which brings me to my profession. Medicine.
I’m researching a new frontier in health care: do-it-yourself medicine. As more information is available online, patients are empowered like never before.
The rise of the e-patient movement is one such example. But now, with direct-to-consumer lab testing and radiology, people are able to access medical services and consume them like any other commodity.
I’m interested in learning about people that obtain these services without the consultation of a medical professional.
Caveat: a lot has been written about cyberchondria, google-itis, and patients advocating for themselves and their loved ones with their doctors.
I’m looking for people out there that self-diagnose and treat but make every effort to steer clear of the medical establishment.
Are you such a person? Do you know one?
All information and stories will be held in strictest confidence. We’re trying to gauge the prevalence of this phenomenon in the world.
Comment on the blog or send tips/inquiries to GlassHospital [at] gmail [dot] com.