Why would anyone think engaging patients is not good for healthcare?

Conversation between doctor and patient/consumer.

Conversation between doctor and patient/consumer. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Patient Recognition Month Poster

Patient Recognition Month Poster (Photo credit: Army Medicine)

Almost everyday in the media and on websites around the world someone, somewhere, comments and discusses the importance of engaging patients. As if this is something surprising and new!

What is surprising to me, is that the topic continues to be debated, and commentators continue to try to persuade non believers and key healthcare stakeholders that this has real benefit. And, it’s true, not everyone is convinced it’s a good thing.

The concept has been around for years, and there as many success stories as there are failures, but commentators seem very quick to want to throw out the concept without completely understanding that it is the ‘how’ that is most likely at fault. Clearly, not every patient wants to be engaged, but certainly many of them do. Just look at the number of folks who look at health related topics on the internet – a recent study by Pew Internet found that 80% of internet users, or about 93 million Americans have searched for health related information on line. That is a lot of interested healthcare consumers!

So it is definitely the ‘how’ that causes the problem. Each of us have a different view about how we want to be engaged, be it in healthcare or anything else. So flexibility is the key, and what I see so often is that engagement is clinical code for compliance: ‘we need to educate this patient so that they understand their condition and follow their treatment’. But, to be honest, it simply does not work like that. Clinicians still have that scientific, data driven, clinical view of the world and continue to struggle with the idea that they are working with people, most of who have a strong notion of what health means to them. And it may not agree with accepted clinical thinking. But it is their health and their body, and clinicians need to better understand that a good outcome for one patient may not be good for another in some cases.

So, as with all things in healthcare, when we are speaking about engaging patients it needs to fit the individual patient’s view of what engagement means to them. For some, light touch, for others more information and data, while others may just want to feel heard. Anyway, patient engagement is not one size fits all, and if we are to engage patients in any meaningful way we need to work with all stakeholders to change behavours and rewards, and actively encourage patients to become more involved in their health management.

If we can do this, we will have better health outcomes for patients while driving down the cost of healthcare. For pharma, it may even have the benefit of improving adherence and increasing their profitability.

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One response to “Why would anyone think engaging patients is not good for healthcare?

  1. Pingback: Healthcare News

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