Just when I feared I’d have nothing to write about for this week’s post (despite the interesting news of the NFL’s love of electronic medical records), my husband unfortunately breaks his collarbone. This mountain biking mishap necessitated a variety of healthcare-related trips – a clinic for X-rays, orthopedic surgeon’s office for prognosis and treatment, and our local pharmacy with a handwritten prescription for a much-needed painkiller.
Perhaps the most important visit my husband made was to the World Wide Web, looking up all the information he could find about treatment, length of recovery, worst-case scenarios (which the Web is great at providing), and words of encouragement. Being that this happened on Sunday, Oct. 21st, he had to sift through quite a few Google pages to get through all the news surrounding Charles Woodson’s broken collarbone. Normally, we don’t pay any attention to football, unless it has to do with the Georgia Bulldogs (hoping for a win over Florida this weekend!), but it was pretty hard not to read up on the Green Bay player’s predicted six-week recovery.
Eventually, around page six of Google search results, my husband came across several mountain biking forums that had active discussions around riders’ recent collarbone injuries. My husband was in heaven – all of a sudden his six weeks of recovery now didn’t seem so long, now that he had fellow injured cyclists to commiserate with. (He’s taken to posting daily updates about his progress, and has received positive feedback already!)
Forums like these seem like perfect opportunities for patient engagement. The odds of a doctor weighing in on any given forum are probably pretty slim, but I wonder if those odds would increase if a healthcare institution sponsored the forum. For example, the practice of my husband’s orthopedic surgeon could offer an online community/forum for patients and non-patients to discuss the challenges around a particular problem, such as broken collarbones. The doctors within the practice might be tasked with posting a comment or two each week. Perhaps an alert or message could be programmed to pop up in a patient’s EMR, reminding the doctor to let patients know about these online resources. A service like this would certainly have saved my husband time in connecting with fellow patients, and it seems like a great marketing opportunity for providers.
I’m sure there are HIPAA-related concerns with an idea like this, and I wonder if the providers’ participation could somehow be tied into meeting patient engagement requirements as they pertain to some future stage of Meaningful Use, or accountable care requirements.
Are you aware of any vendors offering technology like this? Do you know of any physicians offering/sponsoring online communities? Please let me know in the comments below, especially if they pertain to collarbones!