How to Engage Your E-Patients Like a Rock Star

By Barbara Ficarra, RN, BSN, MPA

Part 1 in a series on the e-patient, participatory medicine and health 2.0

There’s no question that today’s patients are savvy.  Today’s patients are e-patients. Surrounded by technology, researching health information on the Internet has never been easier.  Patients are engaging in communities and social networking sites and the exchange of information between patients has proven invaluable to some, thanks to the Health 2.0 movement.

When patients visit their doctor and other health care professionals, many are armed with questions and they are not satisfied until they get answers.   Patients are empowered and they want to be engaged in a relationship with their doctors and other health care professionals.  They want respect, collaboration and connection.

The Rock Concert

Rock Star 2

Imagine you’re sitting in the audience at a rock concert waiting for your favorite rock group to begin performing.  You know once the music starts; you’ll be singing and dancing, totally engaged with the rock band.  Before the band begins, the lead singer steps to the microphone and says,

“Hello everyone, we’re thrilled to be here tonight and we have a great new line-up of songs to perform for you tonight, but tonight we ask everyone to just take their seats and listen to the music—please no dancing or singing along, and please no clapping.”

Yeah, OK….I don’t think so.  I mean, after all the main reason for attending the concert in person is for you to be engaged with the band.  That band would lose many of its fans for failing to engage with them.

When you’re at a concert, you want to participate and have a real connection with the experience.  You love the live music that gets your body pumped up.  You love the way the audience is so into it; you love the lights and sounds and everything a concert has to offer.  You want to let loose by singing and dancing to music you love.  You don’t want to sit idle.

The Doctor’s Appointment

Now, imagine you have an appointment with your doctor; you get called into the exam room, armed with your list of questions.

Your doctor comes into the exam room and says,

“Hello, Ms. S., before I begin my assessment I would like to let you know that I will not be accepting any questions from any patients today.  You need to just sit there and I’ll do all the talking.”

I don’t think so…If that were the case you should high tail it out of there faster than a tweet zips through cyberspace.

Nursing Care in a Hospital

Now, imagine you’re a patient in a hospital.  The nurse comes into your room and says,

“Hello, Mr. P., today the nursing staff isn’t allowing any questions from any patients.   I would also like to inform you that your doctors will not allow you to ask any questions today.  We are just too busy for any questions.”

That doesn’t cut it… If that were the case, you’d better find another hospital fast!

The above scenarios are all far-fetched

My point is…patients are empowered health consumers.  The way a rock star engages with their fans, patients want their doctors and other health care professionals to engage with them.  They want to partner with their doctor and other health care professionals, and want a relationship that allows communication to be open and honest.

How to engage your patients like a rock star

Understand who your patients are

The way a rock star knows their audience/fans, doctors and other health care professionals need to know their patients.  Rock stars have a special bond with their fans, they have a relationship.  Doctors and other health care professionals need to have a special bond with their patients.  Patients want to be engaged in their health and they want a relationship.

Allow your patients to participate in their health care

The way fans want to actively participate in concerts by dancing and singing, patients want to actively participate in their health.  Patients don’t sit idle.  Recognize that patients are thirsty for health information, and they want to be able to communicate freely with their doctor.  They are active on the front lines of technology.  They know how to navigate the Internet to obtain health info.  Many are active in social communities and they exchange patient stories with each other.  The Society for Participatory Medicine brings e-patients and health care professionals together.

[I will bring you more info on participatory medicine in future posts–continuing series on e-patients].

Welcome the empowered, engaged, e-patients to ask questions

The way your favorite rock star engages their fans through their music, doctors and other health care professionals need to engage their patients.  Today’s e-patients are armed with questions.  Today’s e-patients are trying to survive this very busy world.  Many people are trying to juggle many roles from parenthood, caring for aging parents to trying to make sure they get to work on time.

It’s not uncommon that some people feel overwhelmed; they are looking for a connection with their health care professionals.  They want  information from their doctor and other health care professionals that is simple, honest and crystal clear.

Doctors and other health care professionals need to be a rock star for their patients.  They need to allow their patients to participate, to be engaged and empowered and to ask questions. Patients need that connection.

Stay tuned for part 2 on e-patients with a Q&A from e-patient Dave!


I would like to thank our sponsor, Scrubsgallery and here’s a special offer for our health professionals:  15% off all baby phat scrubs.  Find them here: and please use the code “bphealth.”  Thanks so much!

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