Is patient empowerment important?

Is patient empowerment important?

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It was that time of the year again where rheumatologists and health professionals gather together for 4 days at the 2016 Australian Rheumatology Association Annual Scientific Meeting.

Usually, it’s a great update on the newest drug, the best injection and the pathogenesis of certain inflammatory diseases.

This year, patient empowerment was a key topic.

As a clinician, we may often feel we need to “fix” the patient. However,  if the patient feels empowered to help their own disease, they will be happier and potentially get better faster.

Health professionals then need to do less “fixing”.

On one morning, I attended a breakfast meeting chaired by rheumatologist, Professor Michelle Leech. Aside from some entertaining role plays to highlight the patient and clinician relationship, there were a few key points which we all need to think about when we take that next patient into our rooms:

  1. Patients want to be heard. We need to listen to what the patient is telling us and treat them as a whole person, not a disease.
  2. Every patient is different
  3. Each patient’s journey changes over time. The management which suited the patient when they were 20, may not suit the patient into their 30s. As clinicians, it is important that we remember this and adapt our management.
  4. Mutual respect and partnership. Patients will feel more empowered to manage their condition when they feel you are working together to help them.
  5. Quality not quantity of conversation. Patients understand clinicians are busy. It is important you are present at their consultations and provide appropriate support and guidance. This does not mean we need to spend more time with patients, but what we say needs to be timely and in the correct tone.

If we can follow these key points, we may be closer to helping the patient feel empowered.

At the breakfast meeting, one of the patients explained candidly that she thought of her rheumatologist as her hero. He had kept her healthy, moving well, and achieving her goals for more than 30 years.

If you have seen a great clinician, is it their clinical expertise, or their ability to empower you that has impressed you?

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