Editor's Note: This is an entry in our Scholarship Contest for Patients and Caregivers to attend the Mayo Clinic Social Media Summit Oct. 17-21 in Rochester, Minn. See this post
for more details on the contest, and please cast your votes by liking or commenting on the candidates you think would be best.
Here is Tony Wood’s Essay:
“Something has happened.” Those three words changed my life. Two years ago my office called me in the middle of a lunch meeting of community professionals and educators to tell me that my parents were on the way to the ER, my mother’s fifth visit in six months. This was a departure from the person who raised me, a strong woman who rarely visited a doctor, and only went to hospitals to bring flowers and balloons to loved ones.
As I rushed to the hospital, I realized that my family had to make some changes. We all needed to be more proactive about our health, and less passive in our health care. I had to wake up, and accept that my parents were aging, and their health care was increasing complex, just at a time in their lives when they might feel less up to managing it. This meant that I would be increasingly involved in family health care decisions (I am proud to be the healthcare power of attorney for both my parents), and that we all needed more information and better resources so that our decisions could be the best ones possible.
We began Googling symptoms, searching for providers on-line, researching options, and discussing them with our doctors in an informed way. I am an IT professional, which made this natural for me. But it is impressive to watch my non-techie baby-boom parents do things like discuss their symptoms with other patients on Facebook.
I am happy to say that my mother’s ER visits were caused by a minor ear infection, which cleared up, and she recovered. Now she and my father are managing things like cholesterol and diabetes. I have been working to have my health records uploaded to the cloud so that they can be sent to any provider’s office I need to visit. I have had my genetic health risks analyzed, and I’m using that information to make better choices. I have used apps to log my diet. We are looking at using tools like Evernote to catalogue my parents’ medication so it can be shared during a doctor’s visit.
I’m the owner of a small IT consulting practice in rural Kansas, helping small businesses select and implement systems that will help them reach their professional goals. I became so enthusiastic about using social media and IT tools to become advocates in own our health care that it affected the kinds of advice I give to some of the health care providers I work with.
I encouraged one of my clients, a local psychologist, to go from barely checking her email to being a part of a growing movement of healthcare professionals who think that social media can be a part of the wider solution to the healthcare problems that the world faces. My passion for changing my family’s health using my technological expertise eventually led to an invitation to serve on an state advisory council with a group of patients and physicians in Kansas that are working to improve patient-provider relationships. We want to be able to get more patients engaged, and to help patients and their treatment team monitor and track health outcomes.
What amazes me is that there are plenty of simple technology and social media tools that can keep me and my health information connected to my doctors, and that can help me continue to support my aging parents in their health care. I travel a lot, and have demanding hours. A laptop and a smart phone are two of the most important health tools I use to take care of my family and myself.
My journey for the perfect solution to managing my own care and that of my parents is far from over but I’ve made great progress and have begun to share that progress with a wider audience already. And, thankfully, my parents and I haven’t been back to the ER since that day.