Maybe. We have a long way to go. But it is darn good to hear success stories—especially when they involve a provider.
Daniella Fisher, a blogger at By the People (“A weblog on civic engagement produced by the Center for Democracy and Citizenship” at the University of Minnesota) writes on a recent health care experience where a physician encouraged her to participate in her health care. (Their Citizen Health initiative may be something to keep an eye on…)
All of my previous experiences with doctors have followed the same general pattern. The doctor does an examination, asks a few questions, and writes a prescription for either medication or a course of action. Most appointments last fifteen to twenty minutes at most.
Fairly typical. But wait…
The doctor spoke to me as a peer, not as a client. She pushed me to think about possible causes, instead of guessing at the causes herself. Rather than “dumbing down” her language, she used appropriate medical terminology, patiently explaining to me those things that I didn’t understand. She gave me frequent opportunities to ask questions, and I was surprised at how many questions, given the opportunities, I actually had. We were equals, working together to solve the problem of my asthma. The appointment lasted an hour and a half.
And the money quote:
The doctor helped me to uncover the realization that when it comes to health, we are the most obvious sources of knowledge. We are the experts.
We (read: patients) are the experts.
Yes, perverse incentives don’t always afford providers to spend as much time with patients as they would like. And some medical situations don’t afford providers the opportunity to engage patients. However, the empowered patient may be the impetus to rectify such misalignments…their collective voice will demand the optimal experience.