The Patient that Co-Produces Health Care

The customer as a co-producer has been around for some time: deposits at the ATM, self checkout at Wal-Mart, cut down your own Christmas tree…

The self check-in at the airport model has arrived in hospital emergency departments, here in Dallas, here in New York, among others.

I have been reading about Charles Leadbeater and his new book “We Think.” Way back in 2005, Mr. Leadbeater spoke at TED, and thanks to TED’s willingness to share, we can watch what he said: talks about collaborative communities and their impact on innovation. Mr. Leadbetter especially caught my attention near the very end of his talk:

If you are a games company (online software), if you have got one million players in your game you only need one percent of them to be co-developers contributing ideas and you’ve got a development work force of 10,000 people. Imagine you could take all the children in education in Britain and one percent of them were co-developers of education, what would that do to the resources available to the education system? Or if you got one percent of the patients in the NHS to in some sense be co-producers of health?

The reason why despite all the efforts to cut it (collaborative co-production) down, to constrain it, to hold it back, why these open models will still start emerging with tremendous force is that they multiply our productive resources and one of the reason’s they do that is that they turn users into producers, consumers into designers.

The patient as a co-producer? This has some intriguing possibilities. And then I came across this…

e-patients brings us this story of a wrong-site surgery sentinel event in Minnesota and asks, “Defenders of the Walled City approach to medicine, please note: this was not caused by empowered patients Googling for medical information on unsafe web sites. To the contrary, can there be any doubt this could have been prevented if empowered patients and their families had been involved, with full access to their records, and had been reading them?”

Empowering patients to be co-producers of their own health is a great thing and one way to make our “system” more understandable. Much of the current web innovation in the health care arena is trying to do this. There are great possibilities for one percent of patients to become more involved co-producers of health care. But it is very important (for everyone that is able) to become a co-producer of their own health. Empowering the patient will make significant changes in our system…and it doesn’t require policy change or money.

Mr. Leadbeater also talks about how traditional organizations try to prevent innovation by collaborative communities. Traditional organizations typically provide incremental innovation where collaborative communities can provide giant steps in innovation. We’re seeing it already with sites that allow patients to rate doctors. There is debate on the fairness of such sites. But this is for sure: their proliferation is forcing action. That action is producing change.

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