Empowered Patients: The New Black or Old Hat?

Pam Todd writing on HealthWorks Collective “From Patient Partner to Patient Leader” makes the case that empowered patients are an integral part of our healthcare landscape beginning with clinical trials through to patients and caregivers active participation in their care. I will not argue with that nor the fact tons of research show how much time people spend searching online for healthcare information and knowledge. 

Todd further identifies how the FDA is listening to patients, the WikiProject Medicine, and this quote:

“The patient is not the partner in medical care; the patient is the leader, the pilot, the decision-maker.Patients don’t need recommendations; they need information about the added benefit of one therapy versus another balanced against the added harm of the therapy. People are smart enough to make the trade-offs; they don’t need to be told what to do.”

What then is the role of the doctor? Here is their answer:

“Changing medicine from a ‘telling what to do’ profession to a ‘telling the patient the information’ profession will lead us to a better system of care, better in every way. The profession of medicine should have the goal to serve and inform, not recommend.”

This exists, it works, and it fits with adult learning, people what to find solutions to problems they are having. If my health is crap that’s a problem and I want to solve. This is demonstrated by the fact people with chronic illness and those caring for them seek health information at a very high level and if they have two illnesses it is even greater. You can find more information herehere, and here. Yet in my mind I see the physician being the weak link in this model. This is especially true for older physicians who came up through the time of parental medicine where the learned medicine man (woman too) knew all and lead not listened. This is changing over time with younger physicians who have been raised on FB, Twitter, Google Search, etc. having an easier time identifying with these empowered patients. 

How can first measure what impact patient driven knowledge and empowerment is having on their care from their own view, their HCP behavior, evidence based outcomes, and does a physician who supports and drives patient empowerment see different outcomes from those who do not? Finally dose the HCP have the time to respond to engaged patients effectively?

Finally my chant at times is not WebMD but MyMD. That is where physicians can make the biggest difference in managing and engaging patients by becoming a resource for knowledge or as said above “to serve and inform, not recommend.” This is about leveraging the current patient to improve outcomes of those who are engaged, helping those seeking to engage to be more productive, and getting those who may not want to engage to consider it part of their personal health portfolio. 

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