Nancy Finn's motto is that "healthcare is not a spectator sport, it is a participatory sport." In her book, e-Patients Live Longer, The Complete Guide to Managing Health Care Using Technology, released late last year, she goes on to state:

"(Patients) should participate in decision making with their physicians, ask questions, and be willing to invest time and effort in understanding their conditions. Physicians, for their part, must be willing to share information, with their patients (including access to their records), and must respect that although they may be experts in some aspects of healthcare, their patients will always be experts in themselves."


On that basis, I was very excited to have a look at this book, which is the first-ever hands-on guide that I know of to using the latest and greatest technologies aimed at health, like PHRs (personal health records); clinical "portals"; online pharmacies; and "teletherapies," or technologies you can use to get care from afar, for those who live in remote areas.

Nancy Finn is a Boston-based digital communication expert who previously held several senior corporate marketing positions in high tech, publishing and financial services. For the last several years, she's turned her attention to the hot trend of digital health, and is an avid Twitter user, where you can find her active in her capacity as a healthcare writer and consultant. For this book, she interviewed hundreds of individuals "who are on the cutting-edge of e-health and medical practice" — including a fair number of patients and caregivers. She intersperses her no-nonsense chapters with brief testimonials from these people, set off in italics. I found these to be the most interesting bits, because of course these mini-case studies tell the real story about why and how technology can help people live healthier.

What You Will Learn

Do you feel like you should have your comprehensive medical records stored someplace online, but you just haven't figured out how or where to do it yet? Are you anxious to find a doctor willing to email with you, but not sure what the privacy or etiquette rules are? Are you worried about how your local hospital(s) might protect against those scary medical errors we keep hearing about? Or need to truly understand the difference between an HMO, PPO and POS health plan, and what they might mean to your wallet?

You will find all of that and more in this succinct 200-page guide. The author uses lots of numbered and bulleted lists to break down these items into bite-sized information chunks, and step-by-step instructions for how to sign up, investigate, and/or use this stuff. Especially recommended are the chapters on patient safety (avoiding medication and billing errors!) and on receiving care across geographic boundaries (if you're unlucky enough to land in the ICU, did you know that nationwide, eICU programs use surveillance cameras to connect clinics for specialized care, for example?)

This book is definitely chock-full of information about how patients can make use of tech tools to best interact with their doctors, clinics, hospitals, and health plans.

What's Left Out

However, I was surprised and disappointed to discover that Finn doesn't cover peer-to-peer technologies in much detail at all — in other words, the value of blogs, patient social networks, and forums where we chronic-types can utilize each other as amazing information resources and sources of moral support. She makes a brief mention of PatientsLikeMe (arguably the internet's most-hyped patient community) and of DailyStrength (possibly the least successful), but the chapter on Web Resources mainly lists a lot of .gov and .org sites, along with the likes of WebMD.

What happened to the Patient Community Revolution? That's what I always think of when I hear the term "e-Patient." This is one of the core tenets of the work of Harvard Prof. Clay Christensen, who wrote the seminal book on disrupting the status quo in U.S. healthcare. "Patient networks enable better treatment of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and kidney failure," he says.

(Note that Christensen is a type 1 diabetic himself, and shook my hand vigorously after seeing a presentation I did on our DiabetesMine Design Challenge at the Mayo Clinic a few years ago. My D-Geek high point!)

Anyhow, I wish I'd had a chance to introduce Finn to our parent company, Alliance Health Networks, and the work they are doing to help people keep healthy and active through patient social networks before she completed this book.

DIY = Good For You

Still, all in all, e-Patients Live Longer is an important book, I think. It codifies many of the aspects of being an e-Patient and provides a great modular do-it-yourself (DIY) guide to everything from Mental Health Services to HIPAA: how to discover this stuff and use it to your best advantage as you jockey for position in this "participatory sport."

{iUniverse Publishing, $13.88 on}


The DMBooks Giveaway

Once again we're giving you the chance to win a free copy of our latest book reviewed. If you'd like to win a copy of ePatients Live Longer, check out the instructions below!

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The contest is open to anyone, anywhere. Best of luck!


Disclaimer: Content created by the Diabetes Mine team. For more details click here.


This content is created for Diabetes Mine, a consumer health blog focused on the diabetes community. The content is not medically reviewed and doesn't adhere to Healthline's editorial guidelines. For more information about Healthline's partnership with Diabetes Mine, please click here.