Today’s patients are apt to see their doctor armed with their own research and opinions on treatment options. Here's what you'll need to know.
Americans used to look mainly to their doctors for information on their health problems and how to treat them.
But no longer. Today’s patients are apt to see their doctor armed with their own research and opinions on treatment options. In short, they are becoming empowered.
Here are five things physicians need to know about patient empowerment.
The internet has changed everything
Patients today no longer have to rely on their doctors for health and medical information. They can research it for themselves- even including results of clinical trials
Patients can share their views about physicians through ratings, comments and social media, and more are doing so. A recent Health Affairs study found that 27 percent of respondents consulted online rankings or reviews of doctors in 2015, up from 17 percent in 2012
Social media and online communities enable people to find others with similar health issues and share information and advice
The impact of rising costs
Medical costs continue to skyrocket, and patients are having to absorb higher copays, deductibles and insurance premiums
High-deductible insurance plans are becoming more common
The upshot is more patients are paying attention to care costs and asking their doctors to consider them when developing care plans, ordering tests, prescribing medications, etc.
“My patients are looking at different costs of care and options for different medications based on their copays and household budgets. That’s a big change from even five or 10 years ago.”-Rob Danoff, DO, long-time family physician
Attitudes are changing
Patient empowerment is consistent with other changes in Americans’ views, notably a distrust of authority and desire for greater control of how they live their lives
“Empowered patients are very clear that they have ultimate responsibility for their own health. They view doctors as advisers and resources rather than all-knowing authority figures”-Jan Oldenburg, author and patient engagement consultant
Drawbacks of empowerment
Patients may not be able to evaluate if information they find online or from peers is accurate, complete or relevant to their situation
Patients may make decisions about providers or healthcare facilities based on a small, unrepresentative number of ratings and comments
Patients can’t always distinguish between objective health information and advertising
The benefits of empowerment
Patients who seek out information on their own are more likely to engage in shared decision-making, which produces better outcomes
“There’s mounting evidence that if the patient is part of making the decision, their adherence to the physician’s recommendations will be greater”-Patricia Connolly, MD, associate executive director, The Permanente Medical Group
The benefits of empowerment, continued
A patient who’s done research before seeing their doctor has been thinking about their health problem, making it easier for the doctor to obtain a thorough and accurate history
Patient empowerment can strengthen the bond between the patient and their doctor
“It’s taking the time to explain that I’m suggesting a treatment based on my schooling and my 23 years in practice. And after these conversations lots of patients will thank me, and that feels pretty good.”-Damon Raskin, MD, internist