The burden and power of empowered patients

We keep hearing about empowering patients, but what is not being said is that patients have to be empowered if they want quality healthcare.  Patients can no longer be passive participants in their own healthcare and have to take action to help resolve chronic health issues.

According to GSW:” In the U.S., rising deductibles and cost-shifting strategies leave many consumers wondering how to pay for essential healthcare needs. In Europe and Canada, long waits to see GPs and specialists frustrate anxious patients. Their response: work-arounds. Patients are actively dodging the formal healthcare system and searching for care they can quickly access and more easily afford elsewhere. They’re searching online for less expensive and readily available drugs, using quick-stop urgent cares to replace primary care visits” but this comes at a price.

Here is a great example. Almost three years ago I crashed on my bicycle in Boston breaking my shoulder and having surgery to repair the damage.  A year after the accident, I was still dealing with severe nerve pain in my hand and fingers when my doctor told me “that nerves take a long time to heal”.  Almost three years later I still deal with the pain and three numb fingers that feel like they are encased in a metal glove that gets tighter as the day goes on.  The medications they prescribed only left me tired, made me gain weight and forgetful.  I am now scheduled to meet another specialist at the Cleveland Clinic next month as I refuse to believe that nothing can be done to repair the damage.

How many people out there are dealing with chronic health issues and turning to each other and the Internet to help find answers?  A lot.  The problem of course is having the time and willingness to look for answers while insurers and HCP’s place more of the burden on patients. The Internet can be helpful, but what advice/information is accurate and pertains to individuals?

Pharma, of course, has an opportunity to help patients get good, meaningful and relevant health information if they can just, for a moment, stop trying to sell people.  Most pharma websites are not deep linked which means that Google is still the first place patients go for health information.

It all comes down to looking at health from a patients POV and being empathetic and asking “how can we help them make the right decisions?”