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Physicians Must Make Patients Partners in Pursuit of Health

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media, October 20, 2011

As a hospital patient, I had an earache and trouble sleeping. "We'll get you some medication," the nurse said.

I looked at the capsules in my hand. Then a dose of reality hit me. I remembered I was allergic to that particular over-the-counter cold medicine. They knew that. Didn't they?

Patient-error, avoided, thanks to the patient: me.

At that moment, I was a responsible patient, an easy catch. But of course, that's not always the case, with me or any other patient. Now, healthcare leaders are trying to catch up with the idea that patients have a responsibility to take care of their own health, whether it's being on top of their medications, getting more exercise, or eating right.

But providers have a role, too. It's not hand-holding, but initiating electronic systems and other educational approaches to help patients become partners in their care.

As I report in this month's HealthLeaders  Magazine, Peter Pronovost, MD, senior vice president at Johns Hopkins Medicine and the Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality in Baltimore, says health systems have a ways to go to help empower patients in the health care process. Most education that patients receive in hospitals is "completely inadequate," he says. "More and more, the private sector is working on educational tools for patients," he says.

Johns Hopkins has produced a video to encourage patient involvement, and is working on plans to make videos for patients to elaborate on their stories and needs.

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1 comments on "Physicians Must Make Patients Partners in Pursuit of Health"


Michael Cylkowski (10/27/2011 at 3:43 PM)
Whoever solves the non-compliance problem may get the Nobel prize for economics. Why do we choose to do or not to do the most rational action? I think the dilemma is called 'cognitive dissonance'. We know what the right choice is but we choose to do differently. We often fail to account for the value of our choices. Who's to say that sitting on the patio with a cup of coffee and the WSJ in the early morning is less valuable to me than the benefit I might derive from a good workout? Too often we make one dimensional choices to satisfy our immediate needs. Not until you can get me to realize the value of thinking long-term do I get out of bed earlier and go for that run and then enjoy my coffee on the patio. Your article reminded me of Atul Gawande chastising us in the New Yorker about what did we expect, for so long we wanted patients to be obedient, deferential, and fearful of the doctor's ire and now we give them choices? And Barry Schwartz' book, "The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less" is an excellent study on how we can get overwhelmed by having to choose. If you've ever had an elderly loved-one discharged from the hospital, you quickly learn to ask, "Mom, did you take your meds yet?" Remind them to do it now while you wait. The case workers, discharge planners, and home health providers tell me that non-compliance in meds is one of the biggest reasons for readmits and easiest to solve by other family members calling daily.