Ferguson’s Triangles of Healthcare Holding up After 20 Years, in Internet Age
(ED NOTE: A very important, and good article, originally seen in The Stanford Medx Linked In Group, that helps put thoughts about Healthcare in perspective, in this Internet Age)
November 27, 2013
With the advent of the web providing unprecedented access to health information, health care would flip with individual self-care, friends and family, and support networks coming to be seen as the most important sources of care.
Now, almost two decades later, the Participation Age is gaining speed. The triangles are holding up, and then some.
Along came Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and other social media. Along came global mobile connectivity. And along came the beginning of a stream of mobile-connected health and medical monitoring devices such as those from FitBit, Withings, Cellscope, Scanadu, and AliveCor. The large parts of the new triangle afford even greater opportunity than could be seen before these developments.
Arguably, the small parts of the triangle are expanding as well with new technologies, including the science of genomics, and most recently with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act inviting millions more people into the professional care system.
An Initial Proposal
While the outline shape of the triangles holds true after nearly two decades of accelerating disruptive innovation, we’re beginning to see more and more cross-cutting between levels. This is a welcome change.
Technology is allowing professionals to have a voice helping to inform even individual self-care on the go. And friends and family can play an important role even in the ICU.
One powerful way to foster this participation across levels of care would be to create a culture where it is expected that patients, family, or patient advocates have real-time access to hospitalized patient’s medication record and would be encouraged to initial every dose of medication given during their stay. This provides an unequaled moment of education, preparing the patient network to understand and implement care after discharge. It also welcomes an unpaid external audit with a vested interest as a safety check to monitor and reduce medication and prescribing errors. Medication errors are an alarming systemic problem and perhaps the most important patient safety errors. 
The triangles are growing. The triangles are flipping as Tom Ferguson, MD predicted. It’s now time for the horizontal lines within the triangles to flip as well, welcoming professional and personal participation across the continuum of care.
- Ferguson T. Medical self-care: the seven rules for better health. Mother Earth News. July/August 1985. Available at: http://www.motherearthnews.com/natural-health/seven-rules-for-better-health-zmaz85jazgoe.aspx#axzz2lrkuDdZa. Accessed October 30, 2013. ↩
- Greene A, Greene J. Medication errors result from current medication reconciliation practices: it’s time to adopt participatory reconciliation. J Participat Med. 2012 May 7; 4:e11. Avalable at: http://www.jopm.org/opinion/editorials/2012/05/07/medication-errors-result-from-current-medication-reconciliation-practices-it%E2%80%99s-time-to-adopt-participatory-reconciliation/. Accessed November 6, 2013. ↩