2 posts tagged “universe of dialogue”

“Breaking up” with a doctor after 14 years — Bernadette’s journey to better care

Posted August 30th, 2018 by

PatientsLikeMe member Bernadette (yellsea), who’s on the 2018 Team of Advisors, has been living with Parkinson’s disease (PD) since 2002. She recently filled us in about switching specialists after more than a decade with the same neurologist, and advocating for herself after enough “red flags” popped up in her interactions with that physician.

Out with the old

Bernadette lives in remote area in the Great Lakes Region of New York. The first PD symptom she noticed was her handwriting getting small (a common early symptom of PD known as micrographia) — and her first doctor dismissed it as “writer’s cramp.”

When she began having tremors in her hand, she started seeing a neurologist with a strong reputation in Syracuse, about a 40 minute drive from her home.

“He’s very well-respected in the area,” she says. “In fact, a lot of the [other] doctors won’t step on his toes.”

Bernadette was experiencing serious side effects with some of her PD medications — including compulsive gambling out of the blue (a reported side effect of Mirapex) — but her neurologist asked her very few questions about how she was feeling, and never raised the topic of side effects.

“My husband didn’t like him,” Bernadette says of her old doctor. “I didn’t know any better. There were cues I should’ve picked up on long before the 14 years.”

Bernadette got a taste of other Parkinson’s care when she enrolled in PD telemedicine trials at the University of Rochester (U of R), where the staff is “amazing,” she says.

Bernadette says she was experiencing terrible dyskinesia, and a U of R neurologist mentioned that one of her treatments might be a factor (but didn’t suggest altering her treatment without consulting her doc).

She stopped taking the medication without telling her usual neurologist in advance. (“That was my one mistake,” she notes.) But she noticed a major drop in dyskinesia.

“When I told him I didn’t take [the drug] anymore — and why I didn’t take it anymore —he came unglued,” Bernadette says. “Nobody intimidates this little girl, but I was almost in tears.”

In with the new

Fortunately, Bernadette’s husband, Mark, attends doctor’s appointments with her and calmly stepped in when the doctor flipped out.

“Mark said, ‘You’re not going back there,’ and I said, ‘No, I gotta find another doctor,” she says.

After about a month, she landed a new neurologist at U of R. Although Rochester is about an hour and 15 minutes away, the change has been well worth it and the transition was “seamless” in terms of paperwork and insurance, Bernadette says. (Other patients aren’t always so fortunate, when it comes to insurance coverage — see one example here.)

Her new physician is a younger doctor who’s a movement disorder specialist (focused on PD), rather than a general neurologist (treating a wide range of neurological disorders).

“I was leery” at first, Bernadette says. “She wasn’t that old. She wasn’t out of school that long. My husband said, ‘No—take her! She’s young! She’s got fresh ideas!’ I never looked at it that way.”

These days, Bernadette’s doctor visits are pleasant from start to finish, she says, because the entire office staff is friendly and she has more of a dialogue with her doctor. She isn’t afraid to ask questions or discuss her symptoms and side effects.

“She knows what questions to ask someone with Parkinson’s,” Bernadette says of her new doc. “I tell everyone [with PD] that they need to go to a motion specialist.”

Bernadette continues to stay on top of PD research by reading books and articles (which she advises all patients to do), and no longer feels intimidated about raising new ideas, whether in-person or over the online patient portal (something her old doctor didn’t offer).

“I tell people, you have to do it yourself — you have to be an advocate for yourself,” Bernadette says.

Not every doctor and patient will click, she says, especially with such a varied disease as PD (sometimes called a “snowflake disease” because it can affect people so differently).

“You gotta go with your gut. I might like German shepherds and you might like chihuahuas — and there’s nothing wrong with that,” she says. “It’s a personal thing.”

Bernadette — an upbeat jokester — likes how her new doctor can roll with her sense of humor, but also knows when to take her seriously.

“I can be me,” she says.

How’s your relationship with your doctor? Have you ever noticed “red flags” in your care or had to change doctors? Join PatientsLikeMe today to jump into this conversation in the forum. Also, check out our Good Care Checklist, which PatientsLikeMe developed based on recent research with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation on “good health care” from the patient perspective.

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One for All: The Connected Community of PatientsLikeMe

Posted December 7th, 2010 by

Comments between Epilepsy patients on PatientsLikeMe

PatientsLikeMe is dedicated to building a platform for the open sharing of personal health data.  So far, our community of patients have shared over 600,000 outcome surveys, 300,000 treatment histories, and 2.3 million symptom reports.   We believe this enormous collection of health data will dramatically improve how patients manage their conditions.

But there are more benefits to joining a community of patients like those on PatientsLikeMe than just sharing data: the social support from interacting with other patients has a real effect on improving patient outcomes.  In a recent study published in the Journal for Medical Internet Research (JMIR), our research team found that nearly half of survey respondents (n = 559, 42%) agreed that the site had helped them find another patient who had helped them understand what it was like to take a specific treatment for their condition.  Furthermore, the survey shows that those patients on PatientsLikeMe who make close relationships with other members receive significantly more benefits from those who do not.

So it is worth taking a moment to look at just how extensive the social connections are on PatientsLikeMe, and how many patients have reached out to other patients and helped improve their lives.

There are many ways to connect with other patients on PatientsLikeMe, ranging from communal conversation in our forums to direct one-on-one personal messages.  While some of this dialogue is centered around sharing of health information and experiences, a part of it is purely meant as conversational discussion about everyday life.  All of these interactions are important, because they help tie a community together.  Here’s a glance at some of the ways you’ve connected:

Forum

  • You’ve created 1.2 million posts composed of 94 million words about 86,048 topics
  • 21,865 of you have created at least one post, and 54,839 of you have viewed at least one post
  • You’ve marked posts as “helpful” 1.2 million times

Personal Messages

  • 25,062 of you have sent a total of 751,668 messages
  • 723 of you have individually sent over 100 messages

Patient Profile Pages

  • You’ve viewed our 80,000 patient profile pages over 15 million times
  • 11,874 of you have left over 156,196 comments on other members’ profile pages

(Note: numbers are across all communities.)

While these numbers show just how much sharing has been going on, the following graph illustrates what the connections are like between our members.  In this graph, the dots represent patients, and the lines between them connect any two patients who have shared at least 5 personal messages together.  Note how many patients are interconnected.   By reaching out to one another for support, conversation, data sharing and more, you’ve created a universe of dialogue that has never existed amongst patients like you.

Personal Messages between Patients on PatientsLikeMe

Click for full-sized version. A graph showing personal messages made between some of the patients on PatientsLikeMe. The dots represent patients, and a line represents at least 5 personal messages between them.

Moreover, what you’re sharing with each other through these various connections represents the largest data set of its kind linking conversations to outcomes and overall health experience. This week on the blog, we’ll delve into some of these connections that have been spurred by some of our members.  However, we also want to recognize that even the silent contributors (those connecting behind the scenes or outside of the forum spotlight) are as much to thank for this open network.  All for one and one for all.

(About the title image. This graph shows all comments made between Epilepsy patients on PatientsLikeMe. The dots represent patients, and the lines between them represent at least one comment made. Note the highly connected network of patients in the center. Click for full-sized image.)

PatientsLikeMe member jcole