Why now is the time to do what patients actually want
Two societal shifts - one positive and one negative - are fundamentally changing how patients want to experience healthcare.
It used to be that a person relied on an expert with specialist skills to work on their behalf, whether that be an accountant, a lawyer or a doctor. We each had to give away agency, leading to power dynamics in society. Thanks to technology, we can now easily access information and tools that allow us to exert our own agency. That could mean that you don’t need a lawyer because you can use AI to create a contract based on an online discussion you have with a supplier. You can use a website instead of an estate agent to sell your house. Or you look up your symptoms and care options before speaking to your doctor.
This shift in agency dynamics means we are able to make the decisions that are right for us across certain aspects of our lives.
In many areas of our cultural and social life, people are realising that to achieve what they want, their empowerment is an absolute necessity. The failure of state and large policies is forcing people – especially younger generations – to take control of their destinies. Just look at social movements in recent years as examples of this - Extinction Rebellion is of particular note.
As a result of these societal shifts, people expect to play a role in their healthcare. That’s good news. Everyone has known for some time that healthcare needs to transform, helping people to manage multiple conditions over long periods of time. It’s becoming personalised. More is required but resources are finite so the systems need to be smarter.
Part of the answer is enabling people to take responsibility for their own health. Healthcare organisations have little choice but to be patient focused, working with patients to spot opportunities to innovate and enable everyone to play a greater role in their healthcare.
All this comes with a caveat. Is it right to think that every patient should be empowered and in charge of their own health care? We believe so. As well as the changing expectations of younger generations, evidence shows that patient-centred care leads to better outcomes.
Of course, not everyone is starting at the same place. We need to take that into account. It’s about understanding empowerment as an ongoing process and to provide tailored resources. It’s about personalisation. And it’s about levelling up healthcare populations to create the journey that is right for them.
There’s no going back. The world has changed. Patients are playing an active role in healthcare. Needs are varied and that creates a level of complexity. True patient focus is the only way forward.
Do you agree? Let us know your experience of involving patients in their care - perhaps you think it’s too early, or maybe you think it’s already happening? Use the comments below