Jewels Doskicz is a registered nurse, freelance writer, patient advocate, health coach, and long-distance cyclist. Jewels is the moderator of Diabetic Connect’s weekly #DCDE Twitter chat, and she and her daughter both live healthfully with type 1 diabetes.

The internet has become "the elephant in the examination room."

Or so says Peter Conrad, a sociologist at Brandeis University, who speaks on the developing authority of the internet and its influence in healthcare. The spontaneous flow of information at our fingertips has changed the playing field for providers from their traditional role of pitcher to catcher.

The advantageous slant once held by medical providers privy to their hidden information is now easily accessible to patients across the globe in seconds. With Dr. Google on our side, many of us have become experts in our disease niche, sometimes approaching appointments with information our providers have yet to come across themselves. But it's important to understand how to navigate this new world.

Information sharing

Social media sharing amongst disease communities and through peer-to-peer interactions provides people with a unique look into the management of their disease. Through Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, disease-specific websites and blogs, and other platforms, the stream is endless and incredibly informative.

These social environments have proven to empower us in very positive ways. We are not only taking ownership, but also control of our chronic disease — it is ours after all.

"Patients as experts" is certainly a new and evolving concept for providers to embrace. Depending on your approach and your provider’s willingness to engage, the interaction can be a smooth experience fostering a wonderful alliance, or it could feel like sandpaper, abrading the relationship altogether. One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to long-term relationships with health care providers. Finding the right fit is important; our health depends upon it.

Meeting in the middle

The reality is that people are presenting at appointments ready for negotiation. With education on their side, people are shifting the conversation away from being told what to do to being active participants in the decision making process. Some people may find themselves teaching their providers about new technologies, research, or disease management tools.

Instead of scolding patients, Stanford School of Medicine suggests we “applaud them for their initiative to take part of their health care, for their enterprise and interest to learn about their condition, for their correct intuition to follow up with their physicians.”

Keep these in mind:

-Educating yourself on your condition is a good thing. Pat yourself on the back.
-Being educated and empowered decreases costs of service though knowledge and skilled heart conditions management.
-Incorporating our ideas into daily living may often be the best option.
-Helping practitioners from the ground level up is important. We can teach what it’s like to live with
and to be a parent of a child with chronic disease; all it takes is a listening ear.
-Maintaining an active voice with our heart conditions is vital so that providers know what’s important to us in managing these illnesses.
-Sharing quality online resources with providers can help them help other patients struggling with the very same issues.

To learn more about patient empowerment:

Heart Conditions: Three Things You Need to Know about Patient Empowerment
The All-Important Relationship with Your Doctor: 8 Tips to Improve Your Medical Care
Talking to Your Doctor: Deciding When, How – and If – to Speak Up