Laurence Altshuler, MD
A recent report from the Institute of Medicine reveals that even though most doctors realize that improving patient engagement can reduce costs and improve the quality of care, physicians still frequently overlook patients’ needs and concerns.
Several studies have shown that health and health care improve when medical providers listen carefully to patients and their families. However, other studies have shown that physicians usually interrupt within 15 seconds when patients begin to raise concerns.
The report went on to state that patient engagement can be improved by providing patients with clear information on the benefits and downsides of potential treatments.
I am somewhat dumbstruck by this panel report because it should be so obvious to everyone, especially doctors. For patients to be able to take an active role in their care (to be “empowered”), they need two things: (1) access to obtain pertinent information and (2) make sure their needs and desires are being heard. It seems simple enough, but it just doesn’t happen often enough. This is one of the main reasons why patients often become non-compliant with doctor recommendations.
Patients can take an active role in their health care by asking their provider questions regarding their condition and treatment, and then insisting that their provider listen to their needs and desires. Unfortunately, many providers just don’t spend the time necessary to accomplish these goals. If that happens, it’s time to find another doctor.
Being empowered is important. As these studies and others show, those who take an active role in their health can have much better outcomes, including less side effects and a better quality of life. It’s that important!
Read tips for partnering with your care team.