Why don't we just tell patients what to do? – How to reach the potential of Patient 3.0

In this blog I will discuss the argument that empowerment of both health care systems and patients is necessary to help people help themselves and to create systems that supports patients in helping themselves and co-manage the treatment and care provided by the system. Only if the systems can manage to support the empowerment of patients, will we see the true potential of patient 3.0.The empowered patient who recreate the system in a yet more empowering way, when entering it.

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.

System empowerment

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


Nicolaj Holm Faber

Nicolaj Holm Faber, MA in philosophy and rhetorics, is working at The Danish Committee for Health Education, Copenhagen, as a senior consultant. He is a T-Trainer for Stanford self-management programs and is training health care professionals in patient empowerment. He is involved in the European Network on Patient Empowerment ENOPE and is collaborating with the Careum Foundation on self-managing chronic conditions.

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