Empowering patients: translating information into wisdom Jennifer Kherani, MD March 8, 2017

Empowering patients: translating information into wisdom

I have been fascinated by medicine for most of my life. The study and practice of medicine is as much art as it is science, with an ever-evolving palette of discoveries, techniques, and therapies that enable us to cure, treat, and comfort. Progress occurs through a lens of humanity, ethics, and altruism. To me, apart from being a mother, no other calling is as satisfying, as important, or as challenging.

I am specialized in emergency medicine. Emergency physicians are the sentries at the gate of the healthcare system, and my experience has given me a unique view of its strengths and weaknesses. While on shift in the ER, I regularly saw patients who came not with medical emergencies, but who simply did not know where else to turn. I saw patients who were unable to obtain clinic appointments for months, who had reams of confusing Google search results, or who carried medical records as thick as a textbook looking to understand it all. I once sat for an hour at 4:30 in the morning with an elderly woman holding a grocery bag full of prescription pill containers, who told me, “I don’t know what to take or why.”

In our age of medical progress, with endless data, technology, and knowledge, the ultimate irony is that patients understand less and less. Our healthcare system measures success in number of procedures performed, rather than in quality of care delivered. As a result, physicians have 20-minute windows to train the shadowing medical student, direct the residents, synthesize the patient’s history and physical, form and execute a treatment plan, and explain it all to the patient, while answering her questions. This process is broken, failing patients and providers alike. Patients do not benefit from their doctor’s decades of study and experience because there is no time to explain it. Instead, they are forced to turn to unfiltered and unqualified sources to seek understanding, which only confuses them further.

I co-founded Summus because of my love for medicine and my desire to restore the connection between patients and the collected wisdom of our medical community. We provide the counsel of the most gifted, innovative, and experienced physicians in the world. Our goal is to serve as a gateway to their vast expertise so that patients might find the cures, treatments, and comfort they need. If we can once again enable physicians to guide and empower patients with knowledge and information, then we can begin to heal our broken system and return to the ideals that inspire us to be a part of the medical community.

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