Origonally posted on “Value innovation in medical and life sciences” ; September 27th, 2009
See: http://web.archive.org/web/20101021014047/http://wp-pharma.waardeinnovatie.nl/?p=67

What you may like to prevent just by using social media in health care.

Here’s a Dutch father complaining about the reimbursement of a continuous glucose monitoring system in a national newspaper.



For the control of his daughter’s diabetes, who has also a Down syndrome, he is only reimbursed for a normal glucose meter, not the wished for continuous glucose monitoring system. (Compare the FDA text: http://bit.ly/3fFekY).
The father states that the health care insurance company informed him, unsolicited: “We want you to know that continuous monitoring can not be reimbursed.”
That’s what it was. He is amazed that the Down condition of his daughter is not a concern to them whatsoever? Shouldn’t it have been taken into account? No such thing as: we do understand your point, the more so while we can see that traditional glucose measurement will be short of effective with your daughter’s diabetes, having a Down condition,.. No, nothing of this.

Undoubtedly irritated by this, the father demonstrates to a mass public what patient empowerment means. And, how he is left alone with his quest. Isn’t it nice and wise of the father not to mention the actual insurance company by name? Chapeau!

Will social media give this father and others like him, a channel to the larger public for complaint and reproach to organisations like the health care insurance company? Should health care parties be afraid of that?

I think no! To the contrary.

Social media has two sides: the one is the public place of information and interaction between suppliers and users of information. It’s public. All features of public media are possible. Good and bad. One should be aware of that. The other one is the more private shielded community that gives space to people who are committed to a cause that they want to keep for themselves.

Tweeting or blogging about issues that the larger public, interested people, or free accessible communities want to share with each other, is one. It’s a different thing when persons concerned want to keep their interaction, communication or dialogue to themselves because it is private.

Health care and care for health gives room to both. But when it comes to specific interaction with the issue of one’s personal health, people will want to keep that to themselves with their treating professionals, and to those that they choose to involve. This aspect creates a commitment among people that is normal between persons with a strong binding to a cause, with or without the use of internet. If well organised and structured, that could extent to several parties concerned: health care providers, professionals, insurance companies, device providers, etc. Health care will benefit when those are streamlined. In this way, such a shielded community to the father and his daughter could support their coping with his daughters’ condition in all aspects of it.

But in the current case, the father is left alone with his complaint. Would he and his daughter had been serviced by an integrated, supporting partnership, they certainly would have been helped by the action of a doctor, diabetes nurse, device industry, etc., to at least communicate to the insurance company about the reasons for exception in this case. And, most probably, the company would have been going along with this. Like we know how specialists in hospitals often just need to simply telephone the right person within the insurance company and things would get to be done.

Direct accessibility, transparency, trust and, yes, care in the sense of concern and commitment would thus have been created. A line of trust not easily crossed by a father who is concerned about reimbursement. The persons to be addressed would be reachable in the trusted community itself. This would have given the insurance company the opportunity to handle the question with care, instead of a blunt, administrative response.

But, since parties involved rather prefer to protect their individual interests more than cooperating together in favour of quality of care, a lot of unnecessary effort and costs will be spilled. What is needed to motivate concerned parties to move into working together, if it was not for public protest of for more money?

Rob Halkes