Patient empowerment has become a hot topic in healthcare recently. So what does patient empowerment mean and why is it important?
Patient empowerment is the patient’s power over a range of decisions such as provider and treatment choice. Traditionally, patients had very little power, and physicians were viewed as the authority for all parts of care, from problem detection, diagnosis and prognosis, defining health goals and treatment options, implementing treatment and monitoring and evaluating patients. However, the role of the patient and physician is changing and patients have increasing responsibility across all these aspects of care.
Why is this happening?
- Changing Medical Landscape: In the US and Europe, the majority of diseases are chronic rather than acute, with much of the management happening outside of the healthcare settings. Patients are responsible for taking medications and making changes to their daily lives.
- Changing Information Landscape: The Internet gives patients easy access to information that was previously mostly accessible by healthcare professionals. Additionally patient forums/communities or personal blogs have allowed patients to share their experiences and take the role of expert.
- Advances in Technology: Monitoring devices, genetic testing and other technology advances are giving patients more access to their personal health data.
- Changing Provider Landscape: the decreasing number of healthcare providers as well as fee for service payments have caused physicians visits to become shorter and has shifted the burden of care coordination to patients.
- and finally the COST OF HEALTHCARE: Healthcare costs continue to rise. The question is whether or not patient empowerment can have an impact on these costs?
Why does patient empowerment matter?
Lack of patient empowerment can contribute to many healthcare issues, which may contribute to high costs. Patients may:
- Be unaware of symptoms or unable to properly describe the symptoms to their healthcare provider;
- Only answer questions asked by their HCP, don’t feel comfortable talking themselves or to asking questions
- Not know special terms
- Not know about related symptoms
- Not follow doctor’s advice due to missing dialogue
All of these situations can lead to unnecessary consultation, misdiagnosis, poor patient adherence, inadequate planning for care at home and poor monitoring, follow up and feedback.
See Part 2 for what patient empowerment means for pharma and market research companies.
Reference: Patient Empowerment and Efficient Health Outcomes Reinhard Angelmar (INSEAD); Philip C Berman (European Health Management Association, January 9 2007