Discussion in Denmark
In recent years the concept of Patient Empowerment have been a central part of the discussion in Denmark, concerning the challenge of dealing with approx 1.7 million people (30 % of the population) living with long-term condition. The assumption is that if we empower patients to self-manage the appropriate part of their health care condition, then patients will have higher benefit of treatment and care and will improve their quality of life and – hopefully – cost less. This does not mean that the patients should become entirely responsible of their health, but that the patient should take charge of managing the everyday life with a disease.
Put it in another way, self-management of patients with long-term conditions is crucial to ensure benefit of treatment, including medication and recovery. Patients and health care professionals spend approx. 2 % of the patient’s life together. 98 % of the time the patient is alone with the responsibility of managing life with a disease. Therefore, the central part of the task for the health care professional must be to provide the necessary treatment, knowledge and tools for managing life with a long-term disease.
Experience has shown us, that while the patients want to self-manage, the health care system experience internal barriers when it comes to implementing empowerment strategies in praxis.
Therefore the discussion of patient empowerment should change to a discussion of how to create an empowering system, in which patients can co-manage their health care problem with the support and aid of professionals. This is system empowerment.
To empower the system, an obvious way to start is to educate the professionals in using techniques and strategies to include patients, care-givers and communities in the completion of procedures of treatment and care in the system. And the way to do this is to invite patients/citizens to co-manage the system with the health care professionals.
In this way patients will get the message that their knowledge and experience is essential to optimal treatment and care, and in turn support patient empowerment. Furthermore the health care professionals will learn that the knowledge and engagement of patients is not only necessary for effective treatment, but is an ongoing quality assurance tool and source of inspiration for creating new procedures. This process will empower the system.
And this is the true potential of Patient 3.0.
Nicolaj Holm Ravn Faber
T-trainer CDSMP, The Danish Committee for Health Education