Consumer Health Informatics: Is Every Patient Ready to Be Wired?

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Consumer Health Informatics: Is Every Patient Ready to be Wired?

Carrie Taylor, RN
NUR 312A Nursing Informatics
20 September 2012

In healthcare today, great strides have been made to create technology that can aid patients and family members, as well as, the public at large in gathering health information, making personal health decisions and taking control of their options. As healthcare providers, it can be easy to believe that we should want the best for every patient, but the question becomes is every patient ready for “the best”? For those members of Generation X, Y and those that follow technology is not nearly as daunting and in many ways their willingness to adapt in an ever-changing technological environment makes them ideal test subjects for these same advancements. Additionally, the extent to which they benefit from technological advancements in consumer health informatics is debatable as the ability to accurately discern valuable versus valueless information becomes a challenge. On the other hand there are Baby Boomers and those that are older who may benefit the most from technological advances, but are resistant to learn and try new things relative to their unfamiliarity. The challenge for healthcare providers is to take what we know about healthcare informatics and technology and integrate it with an assessment of a patient’s readiness and willingness to embrace that technology. How do we offer our patient’s “the best” and help them keep moving forward?

Finding a true and finite definition of consumer health informatics is formidable since the arena is ever expanding. The American Medical Informatics Association defines consumer health informatics as, …the field devoted to informatics from multiple consumer or patient views. These include patient-focused informatics, health literacy and consumer education. The focus is on information structures and processes that empower consumers to manage their own health--for example health information literacy, consumer-friendly language, personal health records, and Internet-based strategies and resources. The shift in this view of informatics analyses consumers' needs for information; studies and implements methods for making information accessible to consumers; and models and integrates consumers' preferences into health information systems. (American Medical Informatics Association, 2002)

This definition is concise in that it does accurately define the field, but it does little to accurately convey the scope of the field, as it is as diverse as the definition itself. An informal, random polling of people will demonstrate just how diverse even health related internet-based resources are and how preferences vary from person to person. Think about the last time you sought out health related information on the Internet and consider the thought process and choices behind the website that you chose. The options are endless and patients of all ages and backgrounds can easily become overwhelmed and feel inundated.

Now extend that same concept to unearthing information relating to a specific disease process and advancements in technology relating to the care and treatment of said disease process. For the purposes of this paper let us look at diabetes, continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) and insulin pump therapy. Both continuous glucose monitoring and insulin pump therapy represent cutting edge advancements in the treatment of diabetes. Diabetes is a disease that affects patients of all ages and therefore is useful in demonstrating the intricacies of consumer health informatics. A basic Google search for continuous glucose monitoring yielded reliable and current resources in the top five, including the diabetes specific website maintained by Medtronic, a leader in the field.

The Medtronic website is user-friendly and informative at the same time, but the diversity and volume of information enveloped in the website proves challenging for those...
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