Patient empowerment is key for future healthcare, but consider the challenges

The patient is the most underused resource in healthcare, we’ve been told. But the relationship between health professionals and patients is changing: informed and active individuals have great potential in tackling healthcare challenges. “Patient empowerment” is the word of the moment.

COPENHAGEN, DENMARK - (HealthTech Wire / News) - Neelie Kroes, Vice President of the European Commission, said patients can do more than just passively consume healthcare. “Simple ICT tools can put health choices into their hands; they constitute a system that is both more cost-effective and more empowering”, she said.  And, John Dalli, European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy, added, "The time of doctors talking down to passive patients is over."

Story Highlights
  • Relationship between health professionals and patients is changing; “Patient empowerment” is the word of the moment
  • For a healthcare portal to be successful, there are three challenges which must be addressed: letting go, taking control, and changing the traditional hospital experience
  • "The time of doctors talking down to passive patients is over."

Patient empowerment is good – that’s for sure. But it comes with a set of challenges.

“What if a person believes cancer is caused by negative thought”, asked Morten Elbæk Petersen, CEO at the Danish health portal sundhed.dk. He said that for a healthcare portal to be successful, three challenges must be addressed:

  1. Health professionals need to let go of control
  2. Patients must take control of their disease
  3. The traditional hospital experience must change; some aspects of it deny the patients’  empowerment.


“What if the result is surprising”, he asked “and the empowered patients don’t do what we want? There are limits to patient empowerment”, he said. But most importantly, the system needs to move from a professional-oriented to a patient-oriented presentation of data.

Young women as empowerment ambassadors

In Estonian too, patients are at the European forefront of empowerment. The National eHealth System gives them online access to their own data – discharge letters, ambulatory care summaries, and test results. They can declare intentions and preferences. ID cards secure access to the systems. All attempts to view data are monitored by patients and by the Estonian E-health Foundation. The country has formed an ethics committee to lead the discussion on patient rights. This body has suggested an opt-out system that eliminates the need for patient consent while sending the data; however patients can deny access.

Estonia has seen a “slow but steady growth of HIS use”, said Kelli Podosvilev, Board Member, Estonian e-Health Foundation.  A total of 6.7 million documents are on the system for 68% of the population (more than 800,000 people). Some 90% of hospitals’ discharge letters are digital. This data is available in iPatient – which has seen a sharp rise in user numbers.

“Users are mainly young women between 21 and 40 years. Unfortunately, we don’t see many male users”, Podosvilev said. Young, healthy women are the non-traditional group of patients; for them, one of the main use cases for iPatient is to view ultrasound images of their unborn. But other age groups follow when doctors take an active role in motivating the patients to use the system, Podosvilev said. “We have to improve that part.”

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Source: HealthTech Wire

Published in GoDirect / Newspartner

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