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One in Five Physicians Find Patient Empowerment Annoying

By Alexandra Wilson Pecci  
   August 09, 2017

The poll of more than more than 1,000 physicians and nurses showed that 54% of physicians said patient empowerment was helpful.

Although most physicians and nurses say patient empowerment is helpful in their practice, 21% of physicians would characterize it as annoying, according to a recent Medscape poll. Just 5% of nurses would call it annoying.

The poll of more than more than 1000 physicians and nurses showed that 54% of physicians said patient empowerment was helpful, compared to 82% of nurses.

When asked to define patient empowerment, respondents had different ideas. Among the top answers chosen were:

  1. "Patient asks about pros and cons of treatment options and drug side effects" (chosen by 69% of physicians and 89% of nurses)
  2. "Patient takes an active role in deciding which treatment or drug or therapy is most useful for them" (70% of physicians and 79% of nurses)
  3. "Patient researches symptoms and treatments and brings information and questions to discuss with their physician" (54% of physicians and 68% of nurses)

Half of physicians and 60% of nurses said patient empowerment was beneficial to the patient relationship. For instance, some respondents indicated that even bad online information can open the door to better discussions.

"As a diabetes educator, there is a deluge of online hocus pocus, from wearing a plastic wrap body suit to drinking vinegar for weight loss,” commented a registered nurse who responded to the poll. “If you use the Dr. Google 'misinformation,' it can be a jumping-off point for a discussion of appropriate treatment, especially when it comes to diet and exercise."

However, the majority of both physicians and nurses said they would describe less than a quarter of their patients as "empowered."

In addition, many clinicians say that not all patients should be empowered. Fifty-three percent of physicians said at least half of their patients should not be empowered, and 46% of nurses agreed.

"Lay persons rarely use their research to create a differential diagnosis but rather to support their preconceived ideas,” said one emergency medicine physician poll respondent.

The poll also indicates that some clinicians don’t think patient empowerment is helpful at all: 17% of physicians and 5% of nurses said such research was detrimental.

In addition, more physicians said that patient research made care more difficult (39%) than said that it made care less difficult (24%).

Another issue that some clinicians have with patient empowerment is time. Ninety-two percent of physicians said it sometimes, frequently, or always adds time to the allotted appointment time, and 95% of nurses agreed.

Alexandra Wilson Pecci is an editor for HealthLeaders.

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