Patient Empowerment – from what to how

One of the buzzwords in health care is surely patient empowerment. However, as with many words there is no consensus of what it means, and what good practices are connected to it, even though it it widely used both in discussions, in media and in research. This weeks I have been working on an interesting paper on physicians view of this concept “patient empowerment”, and I have also discussed the concept in relation to a workshop dress rehearsal as a part of Uppsala Health Summit. The workshop that I am co-organising there is called “Empowering Towards Healthy Behaviours”. This blog will be about the concept, and the ideas surrounding it with patient centred care and a paradigm shift in health care.

There are numerous definitions to the concept, and it is closely connected to the patient centred world view. Some define empowerment as a process in which we should make individuals think critically and make informed decisions. Some see it as a state that you either have, or don’t have. Some discuss patient empowerment in relation to compliance, and to following the doctor’s instructions even though others see empowerment as the “antithesis of compliance”. 

I am very aware that the ideas of patient empowerment is not always embraced by health care professionals. Some of the professionals that I have talked to, and interviewed feel threatened by the concept. Notably this feeling was more common among young female doctors in this study, but that might have beed only coincidence.

My opinion is:

We need to move away from defining what patient empowerment is, and make a more reflected discussion on how we make it happen. What are the good examples of practices that lead to patient empowerment?  What are the actions needed on all levels of society to make this paradigm shift real? What behaviours from doctors and patients lead to the possibility of patient empowerment? How do we end the silence in communication between physicians and doctors, as described in the book “The silent world of doctors and patients” by Jay Katz. How can technology play a part in this change?

This is an interesting topic, and I will surely come back to it in my blog