Posted by: menotmd | October 4, 2010

Rosy the riveter ain’t me…

That’s the image that struck me (and still does) as I read Daphne Leigh’s powerful post in which she proudly proclaims “don’t call me a patient… I’m a frigging e-patient”. Its a powerful piece that hollers: I am empowered, I am educated – translation – *Don’t mess with me!!* The author would ideally have the term e-patient serve as a unmistakable warning to any would-be physician who might otherwise plan on dismissing her as just some “regular patient”. Her post was a response to Susannah Fox’s post on

In her post, Susannah Fox makes an argument in support of quitting the “name calling” (i.e., trying to distinguish between regular patients vs. e-patients) and sticking with the simple term “people”., I was alright with that. She had the numbers to back it up. Today, more and more Americans are looking towards the internet to find answers, but many of them are not familiar with the term “e-patient”, they just see themselves as people. So health care industry, ready yourself bc you’ve got a two-thirds chance to meet someone who is gonna know what’s up.

Like Daphne, I have found myself coming head to head with physicians about health information that I researched. Should I then subscribe to the movement of identifying myself as an e-patient in hopes that I get some respect? Do I then tell my doc, “Hey you, listen: I am an e-patient!”? And if I do, what happens to the next woman who comes through the door and doesn’t proclaim herself to be an e-patient? Does that mean that the physician will give her subpar service? These are questions that I ask myself, because as I leave the doctor’s office, I know what happens to those who aren’t as informed.


Now, I am not one to insist that someone define herself/himself (unless you are a brilliant person who consistently gets dismissed by the world around you, and would otherwise let the world define you), but I am struck by the following sentence offer by Daphne Leigh:

“So, don’t call me a patient. And, don’t just group me in with the rest of the “people.””

Why not?

And who would be the rest of those “people”? The non-empowered? Non-educated? Non-enlightened? Squared? Patient? Because yes, 40% of the American people are still off-line but I highly doubt that the majority of these individuals are off-line by choice. Granted, there are those people who refuse to take an active role in their own health, to do so is too painful and bothersome; but there are those who want to but lack the appropriate infrastructure to begin to be an e-patient. The other reality is some of that 40% is comprised of those who lack english language proficiency, which in and of itself proves to be a barrier to becoming an e-patient. So yeah, maybe those 40% of people are just that non-empowered, but why not associate yourself with them? You certainly know the value of empowerment, why not reach out to the disempowered and help them along. Why create a further disparity between you and them?

What I am further stricken and sadden by, is that those 40% who are off-line went ignored in the discussion, even after Daphne laid it out. If we are to be true to this patient empowerment movement, then we need to talk about them 40% and how to bring them along for the ride, because otherwise you can change empowerment to elite.



  1. Hi, Myrna, and apologies for my delayed response to your linked post. I think you make a really terrific point about those 40 percent of folks out there who aren’t necessarily unempowered by choice. The parity issue is significant, and we all have a lot of work to do to educate and embrace those who don’t have adequate access to healthcare and health information.

    Thanks for taking the time to write this!


    • Daphne,

      No worries on the delay response — it took me a month to respond to write (partly because I wanted to give you the respect as oppose to tweeting it away). I appreciate your responding, it’s a hard topic to tackle. I struggle with this everyday, because it’s easy to talk to those who know or have an idea of being an empowered patient. But how about those who have an idea, but can’t trust themselves to believe that what they are reading is right? Or even that you (you, as in you – Daphne, someone who is well versed in the online health forums) won’t steer them wrong?

      It comes down to the direct service, one on one — door knocking that we don’t have time to do.

      Speaking of which, I gotta go do that now!

      Thank you for responding,


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