5 ways patients have changed in the digital age 

People want to be involved in their story. In the old stories while a Hero was busy with personal growth and triumphing over evil, the community was waiting. People today are empowered in ways they have never been in all of human history. They don’t want to delegate their salvation, they want to participate in it!
Knowledge is everywhere. People no longer need to access knowledge through institutions and formal mentors. They now have the ability to access a collective intelligence to do research, solve problems, collaborate, and innovate. Accreditations and formal training are important for standards of care, but they are no longer the lone source of information or expertise.
There are multiple solutions to the same problem. In a global society it is no longer possible to assume that there is only one “right” way to treat a patient and dismiss all others.
Diversity is Utilized. (Really.) We are learning that we are most effective when we combine different perspectives to solve problems. It is rare that an expert’s knowledge will be more impactful than the combined wisdom of a multidisciplinary and diverse group.
The problem is the system. Before, a Hero fought valiantly to defeat a villain. Now we understand that systems create these “villains” and until the system is changed a problem remains. Healthcare must be about more than responding to illness or injury and instead be about working together to creating healthy systems in bodies, communities, and institutions.

Hierarchies are less applicable in what is now a more diverse and interconnected culture, so why do we still use them? Why do so many patients see doctors as remote authority figures instead of partners in health? Because the way we have organized our stories for generations informed the way we organize our systems.

Before the internet, the majority of popular stories and movies followed the “Hero’s Journey.” The Hero’s Journey informed narratives for thousands of years, and these narratives inevitably formed our culture. Even our primitive ancestors learned important rules from stories that helped them survive the hunt, find food, and avoid harm. For most of human history, obeying experienced leaders was necessary for survival. Over the past two decades something significant changed. With the internet, people can access information and each other in new ways. Groups of patients with the same diagnosis gather online to share stories and treatment ideas. Patients access university libraries and do research from their kitchen table and can even effectively educate their health care providers about aspects of a health condition.

As options for health improvement expand we no longer have to see doctors as omnipotent, powerful heroes. Instead, we can empower patients to better take care of their own health and to view heath care providers as a valuable member of a team. 

HBO and Netflix are discovering that the Hero’s Journey, which entertained and informed generations, is no longer appealing to modern audiences. This trend is becoming increasingly apparent in current movies and television. People no longer have to sit back and wait for someone to come to their rescue. Instead, they are empowered to see themselves as part of the story. As one Netflix executive said“It stands to reason that some of our biggest and most talked about hits are Collective Journey type stories…. to see whether our characters can surmount their differences, however extreme, and repair their worlds. 
Empowered people are becoming empowered patients. Our health care system, and practitioners, will inevitably need to adjust.