Unfortunately, the physician-expert model – with its focus on doctor's orders and patient compliance – has its limitations.
It's begun to dawn on the medical community that most decisions determining outcomes (especially with regard to chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and asthma) are made by the patient, not the physician. Patients decide what to eat, whether to exercise, and if and when to take their medications. It's estimated that 95% of chronic care is done by the person who has the illness.
It's a problem, then, that our current healthcare system isn't designed with the patient in mind and does little to empower patients to take charge of their health. Experts are calling for a more collaborative model in which the patient is not only educated but empowered with problem-solving skills to take an active role in his or her healthcare.
There's a growing emphasis on patient-centered approaches that acknowledge patients are the experts in their own lives, that encourage patients to identify the health issues and treatment goals that are most important to them, and that support patients in taking an active role in deciding how to achieve those goals.
Research shows that self-management education is more effective than information-only programs for improving patient outcomes.
As this paradigm shift takes place – encouraged by the new care delivery models and incentives that healthcare reform will bring – it means that all of us must accept a greater share of responsibility for our own healthcare. As an industry we will do well to reflect this when communicating with patients, healthcare providers, and consumers.
In addition, we are uniquely positioned as communicators and facilitators to help stakeholders at all levels translate this knowledge into workable policies and practical actions, with the goal of enabling patients to be more effective stewards of their own health and wellness.
Bob Chandler is co-founder and principal of Chandler Chicco Companies.