Understanding the concept of patient empowerment

9th Feb 2018
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In today’s era of digital healthcare, here’s a take on what patient empowerment is and does for healthcare.

Healthcare as an industry has been seeing a slow and steady transition from being caregiver-focused to being patient-focused.

With the advent of new technology and the rise of increased smart solutions, treatment is no longer the only objective of healthcare.

One such derivative objective due to the dawn of new technology in healthcare is the concept of patient empowerment. Yet, despite the growing ability of patients to take better care of themselves, patient empowerment remains a vague concept.

Is patient empowerment a myth?

Before we understand what patient empowerment is, it’s essential to understand the concept of empowerment in itself.

Empowerment can be broadly defined as the authority or power given to someone to do something. It’s a term associated with how individuals display varying degrees of autonomy and self-determination to take charge of what represents their best interests.

So, what is patient empowerment? Quite simply, it refers to the premise that, given right skills, information resources and authority, patients will take the onus of healthcare on themselves.

This they will achieve knowing the end impact includes better competence, being more self-reliant and generates improved health outcomes in the long run.

The assumption here is that providers will be able to ‘empower’ patients, and that patients are willing to take charge of their own lives and health. However, most patients are averse to the concept of being empowered by providers, preferring to simply seek direct solutions as opposed to letting a caregiver be involved in the betterment of their health and lifestyle on a day to day basis.

Does this make patient empowerment a myth?

Understanding patient empowerment

Truth is, the entire concept of patient empowerment will vary, quite literally, from person to person. As healthcare demands for the future change through the years, it’s of importance that patients and providers come together to make both individual and collective healthcare experiences better.

Empowerment itself is a grey area – an intangible process. The actionable step on empowerment is involvement. Involvement here refers to both, of the patient in their own well-being, as well as that of a medical practitioner working closely in tandem.

Innumerable studies on the subject point to obvious distinctions between individual empowerment and involvement. In the empowerment context, it refers to the extent to which patients are decision makers and take an active role in the management of their own life.

The patient is in charge of actionable steps to improve the quality of their life. Patient empowerment makes the patient a ‘co-manager’ of his or her diagnosis, working in tandem with healthcare providers to manage the physical, social and emotional aspects of any diagnosis.

When the patient decides to allow a provider to intervene and requires specific input and action by a caregiver, it can be officially declared as involvement.


The empowerment paradigm

Gone are the days of having to take frequent consultations to physicians on a regular basis. The onset of the new age of digital healthcare has empowered patients to take the onus of their own lifestyle and wellbeing on themselves.

As new gadgets, devices, software, and applications populate the digital-healthcare domain, patients are now in a position to take better charge. The future of healthcare is here – empowered patients working in parallel with caregivers to optimise their health and fitness.

The times of visiting a local physician and sitting in the waiting room has passed. Indeed, new technology is empowering the patient. The question now is not when, but how soon will the patient-provider dynamic change completely.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)

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