There are many challenges facing today’s healthcare, starting from lack of physicians, huge burdens in terms of paperwork, lack of funding, etc. However, if we tip the scales and inquire the patients on what they think the problem is, most will say that none of these issues are critical. For many patients, it is the way that healthcare is delivered that is the problem. The solution – patient empowerment.

Envisioned as a way to improve patient outcomes and the overall patient journey, patient empowerment aims to involve patient in the decision-making process as well as raise awareness about patients’ rights and responsibilities. Here’s what patient empowerment is, how to tackle it and the barriers in implementation.

What is patient empowerment?

Patient empowerment is a process where patients get full control over their lives and increase their capability to make decisions on important parts of the patient’s journey. It entails putting power back into the patients’ hands, so that they make decisions together with their physicians.

According to the European Patients Forum, patient empowerment includes five aspects:

–        Self-efficacy

–        Self-awareness

–        Confidence

–        Coping skills

–        Health literacy

Self-efficacy relates to the feeling of control and patient’s willingness to tackle new tasks. Self-awareness is the state of being aware of the current health condition of a patient. Confidence is patient’s willingness to make decisions about their health on their own. Coping skills are the skills necessary for patients to deal with their health condition. Finally, health literacy is one of the most important aspects of empowerment, as it entails the patients’ capability to grasp basic medical terms.

Decision aids

One of the keys to patient empowerment is educating patients that they have an important role in the course of their treatment. However, as patient literacy is staggeringly low and physicians are struggling with an increasing number of patients, this is anything but easy. One of the ways to do this is by using decision aids.

Put simply, these are educational materials that inform patients about the importance of their own decisions in improving their health outcomes. The most common medium for decision aids is video, as outlined by a study in Mass General Hospital in Boston. By watching these videos, patients are able to understand how the decisions they make can shape their way to recovery. Interestingly enough, it’s not the patients who have a hard time adopting decision aids – it’s actually the physicians. However, this article suggests methods of improving usage by HCPs.

At BlueNovius, we take great pride in delivering our own decision aid solution. MedExplainer is an animated medical explainer video, laying out the most important aspects of a certain health condition. With MedExplainers, patients can get informed about their diagnosis, disease and treatment – in just 90 seconds.

Challenges with patient empowerment

In theory, patient empowerment sounds like an amazing concept where physicians and patients collaborate together. However, there are certain problems that arise in practice.

Some patients simply do not want to be empowered. For lack of health literacy of confidence, they do not want to have any part in the decision-making process – the HCP is the one in charge. Additionally, patients in acute situations or with chronic decisions are unable to make any decisions on their own and HCPs must step in.

Another major concern regarding patient empowerment is that it shifts responsibility to the patient instead of the HCP. While this is a legitimate concern, it does not hold much weight in properly executed patient empowerment programs. Ideally, the patient needs to be highly informed about their disease and course of treatment. Moreover, there needs to exist a high level of health literacy. However, not all is on the patient’s shoulders. At the same time, the physicians need to be equipped with proper decision aids and skills to effectively communicate and work with patients. In order for patient empowerment to happen, both sides need to be ready to accept their part of the responsibility.

Over to you

Do you too want to create a patient empowerment campaign? With a range of digital marketing solutions such as MedExplainer and decades of experience in pharma marketing, we can make your dream a reality. Reach out to us today and find out how we can help you improve patient outcomes and make lives better for physicians and patients.

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