I recently attended Medicine 2.0, a conference about health, medicine and the Internet. While there, I was fortunate enough to have a conversation with Dr. Alejandro (Alex) R. Jadad. Dr. Jadad is a physician, public advocate, researcher, educator and author. In the introduction to his new book Unlearning, he is described as a “human bridge. His mission is to improve health and well-being for all, through the innovative use of information and communication technologies.”

Indeed, Dr. Jadad and a growing number of healthcare professionals embrace participatory medicine and understand that patient knowledge has the potential to revolutionize health care. (See the October 2009 Editor’s Feature, “E is for Empowered”. 

During our conversation, Dr. Jadad pointed out that the established doctor-to-patient relationship has shifted to doctor-with-patient. Traditionally it has always been the doctor who advises, mentors, prescribes and gives information to the patient. However, now patients can get their information from many sources. The Internet and social media (forums, blogs, Twitter, Facebook, etc.) are making peer-to-peer mentorship easier, quicker and more powerful. So powerful, in fact, that we are seeing the shift move increasingly to include reverse mentorship—patient-to-doctor.

I suspect that healthcare professionals like Dr. Jadad have always welcomed opportunities to learn from their patients. Anyone who has this kind of relationship with her doctor knows that they have something special. When will this practice become accepted as the norm? I don’t know, but I think that it is up to us—Jane-every-patient—to keep showing our doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers that information we get from our peers makes a difference and that we value it.

Got ideas of what you could teach your doctor? What would you like your cancer care team to know that you learned from reading information online or shared on a forum?

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