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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Professional and the Patient

Being a patient is, unlike most other experiences in this world, a life skill, rather than a professional skill.  You don't get paid for it (in fact, it has significant personal costs, not just financial).  Even people who get paid to represent patients are applying other professional skills (speaking, communications, lobbying, even painting and singing), and are using those skills with existing experiences as either a patient or patient advocate.

This makes for interesting challenges for Healthcare conference organizers.  After all, they are designed to cater to a professional audience who can afford to travel and pay conference fees.  This is a business concern that conference organizers must address. A recent blog post talks about how one patient representative will NO SHOW on conferences that has:

  • no patient IN the program,
  • no patient ON the stage or
  • no patient IN the audience.

There are engaged and committed patients and advocates who are willing to participate in conferences around healthcare.  But these people (and I include myself in that lot), are not representative of the typical patient.  And many patients and advocates don't have a source of funding that allow them to participate as a patient representative.

This all makes for a very difficult dynamic in the overall conversation about healthcare.  That dynamic is further complicated by the lack of transparency in healthcare regarding costs.

As an engaged patient, I won't stop attending conferences that have no patients in the program, on the stage, or in the audience.  But I will approach the issue with conference leaders to show what the value is of taking that approach.  Patients can provide needed input and value to these conferences, and if we can communicate that to conference leaders, we can change how they approach patient engagement.  After all, as an engaged patient, my role is to try to figure out how to get professionals to engage back.  To break off the communication, especially at this stage, doesn't seem to be a useful tactic.