The traditional view of patients often portrays them on the last rung of the health care ladder, with medical professionals and insurance companies alternating between the first and second rungs. Of course, there is lip service paid to the patient by way of patient surveys or perhaps a “we care about our patients” placard ensconced on the walls of a physician’s office. However, the truth is that while insurance companies and the medical community are definitely partners with each other, the same cannot necessarily be said about the medical community and their patients anymore.
Is Anyone Listening?
The recent astounding explosion in fitness and heart rate trackers, food logs and health-related apps clearly shows that people care very much about their personal health and fitness levels. Is anyone listening? The traditional line of thinking throughout the medical and insurance community is that patients could never understand how their body works without advanced training, so why bother to empower them through communication and education? While it is certainly true that both medicine and the human body are incredibly complex and patients definitely need the assistance and expertise offered by medical professionals, perhaps it’s time to recognize that patients do care about their health and are able to learn about their body. Many in the general public want to be empowered with knowledge to help them live their best life possible through patient engagement. They recognize that cultivating good health is imperative if they hope to take care of their families and live a long and productive life.
Partnering With Patients
If the medical community ever hopes to bridge the gap between themselves and their patients, they must recognize the need for a stronger partnership with their patients. Patient engagement flourishes when there is clear communication between the parties and when they share common goals. Although the following is just one small example, it serves to highlight how education can have a significant impact on long-term health outcomes.
Example – Patients routinely undergo blood panel tests, which physicians then evaluate to determine if their patient is within normal ranges. If the patient’s numbers are good enough, nothing more is done. However, what if physicians posted or emailed basic information about each component in the test so patients could learn about what they were tested for and why? Who knows how many patients would change their eating and exercise habits if they could see for themselves that, while their LDL levels were still within normal ranges, they were getting very close to unhealthy levels?
This is just one example of how focusing on empowering patients with information rather than keeping them in the dark can affect health in the general population, thereby reducing long-term health care costs and improving the health of the community at large. Physicians who partner with patients, provide helpful information to them, can then watch them incorporate that information into their lifestyle.