All Posts By

Danny van Leeuwen

Journal for Best Health

By ePatient 5 Comments

For me, the work of maintaining best health with a chronic disease takes large parts of each day. I feel fortunate when the routine just flows without thinking. Like walking used to feel.  I didn’t have to focus on each step I took. Now I scan for uneven pavement, pick up my left foot high enough not to trip, and check my fuel gauges: Have I reached my daily step limit? Has my medicine kicked in yet that helps my impaired nerves work so I can safely walk? Should I walk where ever I’m going or use the electric wheelchair or Lyft? I miss thoughtless walking. The process I use for managing and adjusting my self-care routine includes experimentation, tracking, journaling (journaling is narrative tracking), adjusting. I try to create a care plan for myself complete with goal and actions – project management. I use lists, spreadsheets, and iPhone/Apple Watch reminders to manage the plan and see how it’s working. Read More

Photo by Elijah Hiett on Unsplash

National Action Plan to Better Manage Pain

By Advocate, Researcher, Caregiver, ePatient, Clinician, Informaticist One Comment

Everyone makes decisions about managing pain sometime in their lives. Most people with chronic illness make repeated decisions about managing pain every day. Some people are fortunate to have strong relationships with trusted clinicians or care partners to share the decisions about managing pain. An alarming number of people have found themselves in a downward spiral of addiction to opioids first taken to manage their acute or chronic pain.

Greetings fellow patient/caregiver activists and advocates! I need your help to be successful in some work I’m doing to help people use information better in managing pain. This post takes two minutes to read. A couple of links might take 7 minutes to read. Thinking and responding…. If you can, please take the time. I’m part of this team and I have my own experience with pain management and decision-making. We need a wider reality check. That’s you. Thanks for all you do. Read More

Money Back Guarantee: Value Proposition

By Advocate, Researcher, Consumer One Comment

XYZ Hospital – Money back guarantee

Acme Specialty Services – On-time appts or we pay you

We Wish Think Tank – Research for patients

People’s Pharma – Medications you can afford

I love value propositions: vague, aspirational, ethics remote.  Think: Uber – The smartest way to get around; Apple iPhone – The Experience IS the Product; Walmart – Everyday low prices; Google – Search Engine for the World

This month  I heard the term value proposition in two meetings I attended: A CMS Technical Expert Panel about the value-based measurement system and an iHope Study meeting (Improving Hospital Outcomes through Patient Engagement). It came up as, What is the Value Proposition for researchers, measure developers, and healthcare executives for patient participation? This seemed important to me. If we advocates are trying to sell the idea that patients and caregivers should be at the table for policy making, research, measure development, healthcare delivery don’t we need a clear value proposition?

What is a value proposition? A marketing term? Value proposition refers to a business or marketing statement that a company uses to summarize why a consumer should buy a product or use a service. This statement convinces a potential consumer that one particular product or service will add more value or better solve a problem than other similar offerings will. Companies use this statement to target customers who will benefit most from using the company’s products. Read more here.

I certainly can find resources for healthcare executives creating a value proposition to market to patients, such as The Five Key Elements to a Hospital’s Value Proposition. But let’s say that our audience is researchers, measure developers, or healthcare executives.  What, then, is the value statement for patient participation in governance, design, operations, and learning? I called my friend and go-to brain, Mighty Casey Quinlan. As usual, she expanded my mind. She suggested that Value Propositions assume a relationship between equal partners. Equal partnerships in healthcare (between clinicians and patients) seems to be my life work. But, as Casey explained the business of health care is anything but equal.  Although most money in healthcare in the US comes from sick or well individuals’ taxes, wages, earnings, or savings we have the collective perception that it comes from insurers, employers, governments. This creates a cliff size imbalance in the relationship. It could be similar to building a house. Most of us don’t have the skills, time, or resources to build a house ourselves.  We hire a contractor to manage and coordinate the skilled people who purchase and assemble materials that end up a house.  We pay for the house.  There’s an equal partnership. Our money, their work. Could be, but isn’t. Not if we don’t accept that it’s our money. No equal relationship, really no relationship at all.

So what’s our value proposition for investing our wages, taxes, savings, and earnings in our healthcare system?  I’m having trouble getting my brain around this. Any ideas?

Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash

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What Do You Do for Fun?

By ePatient, Musician One Comment

Yes, you concerned readers, I’m still playing my baritone saxophone. I’m taking lessons every two weeks via Skype. No travel time! I’ve upped my playing to 4-6 hours a week. More structured, too: scales, chords, simple rhythms. I still lose my place improvising, a lot. But I’m less in my head, thank you very much, what a relief. I’m paying more attention to my sound. I love the sound of the bottom (the bari sax is very low). I’ve changed my mouthpiece and reeds.

Devoting time to self-care – pretty fascinating in its own right. A stock question when I talk with people: what do you do for fun? Quite fascinating, try it. Knitting, dancing, jogging, singing, grandkids, soccer, hiking, needlepoint, painting, riding horses, writing, yoga, traveling. My ability to predict what a person does for fun is marginally better than my Lotto predictions. Some say I don’t have time for fun. Or, I’m ready to retire, don’t know what I’ll do. This makes me sad. Very sad. Read More

Photo by Ashley Batz on Unsplash

Patient Ownership of Data?

By Advocate, ePatient, Informaticist 6 Comments

Do you care about health data ownership and want to stay abreast of national initiatives to wrestle with and solve ownership issues? If so, this post is for you.

What does it mean to own my health data? Is it like owning my car or my house? Is it like a copyright? Do I own it by myself or do I share ownership with the people or systems that enter the data (my doctor, the lab, my care partner) or store the data (the electronic health record, the app, the device)? Is it ownership or is it a right, like a civil right? I confess that I know this is important, even critical, but the more I explore, the less I feel like I understand.

Much to my surprise, I was invited to attend a National Academy of Medicine (NAM) Digital Learning Collaborative meeting about Patient Ownership of Data. Participants included stakeholders from EHR vendors, government agencies, hospital and medical practices, insurance companies, patients (I was one of several), and others. See a summary here. The meeting sought to explore several questions (paraphrased by me): Read More

Helping Hands Everywhere

By ePatient 2 Comments

I took my foldable electric wheelchair solo on my trip to Philadelphia this week. My last solo wheelchair experience was in New York City in 1977 when I took a course at NYU’s Rusk Institute of Physical Rehabilitation. On the second day of the two-week course, I spent the whole day in a wheelchair by myself.  It was terrifying. I got stuck in a pothole crossing Fifth Avenue during rush hour.  The ground rules were, never get out of the chair. A homeless woman ran over and pushed me across before I got run over by the honking yellow cabs. On Tuesday, in Philly, I got stuck again in a small sidewalk pothole and a man, sitting on the curb with an “I’m homeless” sign came over and pushed me out. I saw him again on my way back from the restaurant. I handed him $10 and thanked him for helping me. He wouldn’t take it, I was just helping you out. I thanked him again and told him, you helped me and now I’m helping you. He took it. Read More

The Culture of Participatory Research

By Advocate, Researcher No Comments

My recurring mind loop these days is non-traditional patient, non-traditional patient, non-traditional patient. I heard it repeatedly while attended a one-day symposium, Putting Patients at the Center of Research: Opportunities for Ethical and Regulatory Oversight at

Harvard Law School’s Petrie-Flom Center. See a great report written by Andy Oram about the symposium here. The symposium showcased a PCORI (Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute)-funded study about patient involvement in research in non-traditional roles (not the subject*). The study actually focused almost exclusively on Institutional Review Board (IRB) perceptions of patients in non-subject roles. Interesting focus since the role of the IRB is to protect patient rights in research studies as subjects, not other roles.

*Please note: Subject is a loaded word for some. They say participant rather than subject, a more egalitarian term. I’m sticking with using subject because I’m introducing the label of Participatory Research. I don’t want to confuse the issues.

No one’s ever accused me of being a traditional patient and I’m not defensive. Right:) You know I’m heavily involved with PCORI whose reason for being is to fund research that matters to patients and will benefit patients. It’s odd that a PCORI-sponsored study would label anything a person does who is not an academic and not a subject of a research study as non-traditional. The roles the study refers to as non-traditional are membership in the research team as an investigator, advisor, consultant, recruiter, or disseminator. It seems that the study started with a bias when they called other roles, nontraditional, rather than, say, non-subject roles. It didn’t call researchers who include patients in non-subject roles, non-traditional researchers.

My patient/caregiver activism rests on a foundation that patients and caregivers should have a seat at the table for governance, design, operations, and learning of healthcare policy, planning, delivery, improvement, and research. It makes sense that much of the research industry feels like a fish out of water with patients in their midst. Perhaps labeling (non-traditional) is a reflection of their acute discomfort with other. We call people of the Navaho nation whose ancestors lived in the continental US before the Puritans, American Indians. We call people who emigrated from China during the California Gold Rush, Chinese Americans. Yet, I’m white, first-generation American. I’m not called Dutch/German American, just American. Perhaps when many researchers think patient, they think someone wearing a hospital gown with their butt crack bare, not skilled, insightful, hardworking, curious, passionate people like themselves. Other.

As a reviewer of PCORI funding requests and co-chair of an Advisory Panel, I’m fortunate to be part of a leading edge of culture change in the human research industry: Participatory Research. I have seen research teams with patient/caregiver stakeholder Investigators and Advisors paid on equal footing as the academics. I’ve even seen respite care budgeted for carees of caregivers, so they could free themselves to participate in any role. Culture change seldom occurs by waving a magic wand. Rather it moves in fits and starts as the bulk of researchers follow Participatory Research early adopters. Early adopters see participatory research as a no-brainer. Those that follow feel like they’re putting round pegs in square holes. They question the capacity, skill, and confidentiality of lay people in research team roles. They think patients need to be protected, that they need to become more research literate. A great research team has members with statistics and methods expertise, recruitment expertise, project management expertise. Often with less experience with patient/caregiver life flow and direct care clinician workflow. They seldom require life experience training or statistical training for those without such experience. However, everyone, no matter the role, needs to have documented understanding of the rights of subjects and confidentiality of individual data.

I appreciated the presentations at the symposium of three patients (Jane Permuller, Marty Carney, and Paul McLean) in non-subject roles highlighting the benefits of patient participation in research. I also respect Harvard Law School’s Petrie-Flom Center for scratching the surface and reminding us (me) that the spread of participatory research is in its infancy and we activists have much work to do.

2+2=what?

By Advocate, Caregiver, ePatient, Clinician One Comment

Alice’s blood pressure is 110/50 right now. That’s a data point. Her blood pressure, untreated, lives around 150/90. She’s prescribed medicine for it, but she ran out last week and doesn’t get paid for a few more days. When she stands up, she gets sweaty and feels like she might pass out.  That’s a bunch of data and a story. Hopefully, the data and the story are given meaning (processed, analyzed, interpreted) by someone with Alice who has medical experience and skills and leads to information about her safety. Alice might have orthostatic hypotension. She probably should sit down, for now, refill her prescription, and get some medical help.

So, the 110/50 (a single data point) doesn’t mean much by itself. Multiple data points + stories, when processed, can lead to information.  Information leads to choices which can result in action. Data and stories about Alice are collected by her, others, and machines. She might be able to interpret data. So can others and machines. Most action taken as a result of information about Alice is done by Alice. She can’t write a prescription, but she can take it. She can sit down and elevate her feet. She can seek medical treatment.

Some people and their clinicians are drowning in data and can’t breathe, let alone learn from that data. My OpenNotes record from my neurologist is full of data. Unfortunately, even as a nurse, I understand very little of the note. I want some simple information from the note. How am I doing? I have a progressive disease that will get worse. Am I getting worse? Five pages of data in a note and I can’t tell.  I asked my neurologist to explain it to me.  He did. Took about three minutes. Turns out the Expanded Disability Status Scale buried on page 4 was the key. I have moved from 5.0 to 5.5 on the scale in the last two years. He used it to support my claim for disability payments.  But wait, that’s not right, I can’t walk 100m without my cane.  Oh, he says, then you’re a 6.0. Worse than he thought, but now we know. That was an example of missing information (for me) and erroneous information (for him). Let’s not forget biased information. That’s a subject for another day.

The person-clinician relationship feeds on a  two-way loop of data, stories, and action about the person receiving care and support. The art for my clinician team members is to help find, share, and interpret data about me and about groups of people like me (old, affluent, white men with Multiple Sclerosis, high cholesterol, food on the table, who have insurance, a home and family), combine them with stories about me, to help me make sense of it all. So I can do something with the information that makes sense to both of us.

So, I still want my DaM Data (Data about Me). But it’s no good without transmogrification (great word!) into information that I can use.

Photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash

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Byzantine Access to My Health Data Serves Whom? Not Me

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What Data Isn’t. It’s not hope. It’s not getting better or worse.

May I Have Some – Time? Please

By ePatient, Clinician, Informaticist 2 Comments

Best Health depends on relationships -relationship with my health team, my relationship with myself. We can accomplish much in these Best Health Relationships. We take stock, tell stories, complain, report, plan, decide, learn. These relationships impact our spiritual, mental and physical health. Relationships take time. Time as in arriving (scheduling, traveling), being present and accomplishing something (catching up, problem-solving, planning what’s next). Time is key to these Best Health Relationships. Early on in relationships, to establish a connection, a language, a trust, in the relationship, it’s either longer spans of time at each sitting or more frequent sittings.

During my first visit with my neurologist, he said, I know a lot about drugs and therapeutics for Multiple Sclerosis, but I don’t know anything about you, except your brain scan.  My job is to get to know you. Your job is to learn about Multiple Sclerosis. Our visits were often long – 45 minutes, an hour. Soon we developed a short-hand and routine. What’s on your list? This is on mine? Wait, I think we missed one thing on your list. OK. We decided I’m going to do this, you’re going to do that. Text me to let me know how it went. Ten-fifteen minutes tops. A new clinician starts the cycle over.  Build a relationship. Sometimes there’s no chemistry. Then the time (of any length) is mostly wasted, ineffective, especially if I’m in any distress, which is often. Read More

Help Me Be Patient-Centered

By Advocate, ePatient No Comments

 

Everywhere I go it’s patient-centered this and patient-centered that. What does it even mean? It doesn’t take long for buzzwords to wear thin (patient engagement, silos, gig economy, NexGen). Don’t me wrong.  I wholeheartedly support Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) and the Patient-Centered Clinical Decision Support-Learning Network. I subscribe to  Picker’s Eight Principles of Patient-Centered Care.

I also endorse the IOM (Institute of Medicine) patient-centered definition “Providing care that is respectful of, and responsive to, individual patient preferences, needs and values, and ensuring that patient values guide all clinical decisions.”

Once something becomes part of popular jargon and media I can’t help but re-evaluate what I mean and what others mean. When I’m invited to sit at a governance, design, operations or learning table I ask, What do you mean by patient-centered?  Invariably, people assume what others mean and actually have different definitions (or often, none at all). The most common definition people say is, patients are in  the middle of everything. Well, they’re not. I can’t even picture the design challenges of patients in the center of everything. I am in the middle of everything for me. That’s complicated enough. I’m learning that being self-centered means taking care of myself and standing up for myself. I’m responsible for doing the work to understand and communicate my preferences, needs, and values. I’m responsible for respecting myself. I’m pretty good at that, but I could be better. I need my whole team to understand their preferences, needs, and values, respect themselves and take care of themselves. I need them to keep up with the skills and knowledge of their specialty or role. Stronger team members make for better collaborators with more respect overall. I’m going to have better health in the long run when clinicians  stand up for themselves and struggle with the oppressive business of health care. I’m better off when they are less burned out and have more time for me and themselves. I’m better off if they’re self-centered and take care of their jobs – knowing and communicating choices to me. Read More