6 posts in the category “Patient Choices”

Patient Choices: The Deciding Factors

Posted March 2nd, 2011 by

screen-shot-2011-03-01-at-45607-pmIn a recent series on patient choices, we’ve highlighted a lot of the decisions patients like you have to make on a daily basis.  A few weeks ago, David S. Williams kicked off the series with a blog about the treatment and career decisions that patients like you, and his mother, have made.  Kate Brigham then highlighted examples of the social and emotional tradeoffs you make every day.  Last week, we published the results of a recent patient poll where more than 4,000 of you answered questions about the choices you’ve made to tell (or not tell) others about your diagnosis.  (See “Patient Choices: The Shape of Sharing” and “Patient Choices:  How Open Are You Now?“)

Today, we continue the series by highlighting examples of the choices patients like you have made in the past twelve months (pulled from 2010 newsletter interviews).


Patient Choices About…

Being Open

“I decided to make my profile public with the hope that something I have experienced, have done, or could say may help someone else along the way. Because my family seems to still live with the stigma of HIV/AIDS and prefer I don’t allow others close to our family to know of my status, I guess maybe in a way it is my subconscious defiance to my family’s fears.” – memyselfandHIV

Staying Active

“I imagine that by running the races I do, and talking to people about the benefits of a healthy and active lifestyle, that I might motivate a few people to become more active themselves. I mostly want people who like me have MS, but are still capable of being active, to know that it might help their symptoms and make them more comfortable.” – Ramilla

Making Lifestyle Changes

“I can’t drive under no means because where I live you need to be seizure-free for five years and I never am. So that’s a challenge having to depend on people or public transportation. Plus, where I work my co-workers aren’t as understanding as people were when I was a child.”  – Blueeyedgoddezz

Tackling Challenges

“My biggest challenge of late has been to deal with my newly diagnosed diabetes. I am fortunate, because it was discovered in the early stages, so I’m doing quite well controlling my glucose levels. I’m learning to accept that there will be some high readings, rather than stressing over them, since my doctor is very pleased with my progress.” – Dirty Butter

Retiring

An interview with AlwaysLearning on her choice to retire from teaching.


What choices have you made lately?

PatientsLikeMe member Emma


Patient Choices: How Open Are You Now?

Posted February 23rd, 2011 by

youAt PatientsLikeMe, we have a Privacy Policy that explains what we do with the health data that patients like you share.  But as many of you know, we also have an Openness Philosophy, which outlines what we believe are the substantial benefits of being open versus private about your condition.  Here’s an excerpt:

Currently, most healthcare data is inaccessible due to privacy regulations or proprietary tactics. As a result, research is slowed, and the development of breakthrough treatments takes decades. Patients also can’t get the information they need to make important treatment decisions.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. When you and thousands like you share your data, you open up the healthcare system. You learn what’s working for others. You improve your dialogue with your doctors. Best of all, you help bring better treatments to market in record time.

But what do you think about openness?  We realize this is a personal decision that you have to make not only as a member of PatientsLikeMe, but also as part of your everyday life.  Yesterday, we delved into the results from a recent patient poll on how openly you share your diagnosis with various people in your life (Patient Choices: The Shape of Sharing).  Today, we’ll to take a look at how PatientsLikeMe has influenced the openness of patients like you.

In the poll, we asked if you had told more people about your condition as a result of PatientsLikeMe.  32% of you said yes, while 68% of you said no.  Thus, roughly a third of you report that you have increased your level of openness due to PatientsLikeMe.

Those percentages change slightly when you break out the answers by condition.  Nearly half of respondents with ALS/PLS/PMA (42%) and epilepsy (40%) have told more people as a result of people a member of our site, whereas approximately one in four people with chronic fatigue syndrome / ME (19%) and HIV (25%) have shared more.

chart05

So do these findings mean there’s an increase (or bias) in openness activity among the population?  We’ll need to do more rigorous research to figure that out.  According to Alan Westin1 of Columbia, a health social scientist who measures privacy trends among the general public, only 15% of people are “privacy unconcerned” meaning that they are willing to share their health information without fear of discrimination or retribution.  The next 60% are considered “privacy pragmatists,” which applies to people who are willing to share some health information if the benefits are explained clearly and well understood.  PatientsLikeMe may now appeal to privacy pragmatists because of the clear benefits shown from information sharing.

Clearly, social media provides a new method of disclosure, and patients like you everywhere must choose whether it’s right for you.  Is it easier to tell people online instead of face-to-face?  Are there more benefits than risks?  And ultimately, is it better to be open or private?  It’s up to you to make those choices for yourself.

We’ll close with a Mood patient’s experience of how using the site has helped to share more:

“Although I have not created a large number of posts on PatientsLikeMe (PLM), just the few posts that I created gave me confidence in explaining my condition and how it has impacted my life.  PLM allowed me to explore others’ perceptions of their experiences:  Knowing I ‘belonged’ here, and was understood here was valuable in my recovery.  So being comfortable here, at PLM, made me feel more comfortable discussing my diagnosis away from PLM.”

PatientsLikeMe member bheywood PatientsLikeMe member dwilliams

REFERENCES

1.  Westin, A.  “Americans’ Changing Concerns About Health Privacy.”  As presented at the National Academy of Sciences ceremony.  2008.