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What Should People Receiving Health Care Be Called? Empowered Patient Vs. Health Care Consumer

“There is a better way – structural reforms that empower patients with greater choices and increase the role of competition in the health-care marketplace.” Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) August 3, 2011

The highly charged political debates about reforming American health care have provided tempting opportunities to rename the people who receive health services.  But because the impetus for this change has been prompted by cost and quality concerns of health care payers, researchers and policy experts rather than emanating from us out of our own needs, some odd words have been called into service.  Two phrases commonly used to describe us convey meanings that mischaracterize our experiences and undervalue our needs: “empowered patient” and “health care consumer.”

As one who has done serious time as a patient and who spends serious time listening to talks and reading the literature that use these words to describe us, I ask you to reconsider their use.

“Empowered patient” The fabrication of the verb “to empower” from the noun “power” was used in the civil rights and community development movements to describe a benevolent bestowal of influence on disenfranchised individuals and groups by those who had previously excluded them.  When used in relation to health care, the word perpetuates the idea that we are passive entities, waiting to be gratefully endowed by our clinician or a new policy with the right and ability to act on our own behalf.  Our “empowerment” takes place not as a result of our own will or preference, but rather because we have been given permission to act in a different way by some external agent.

This word is Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Prepared Patient Forum: What It Takes Blog*

Will We Ever See Accountability And Transparency In Our Healthcare System?

President Obama, where is your promise about transparency and accountability in Obamacare?

A major problem in the healthcare system is the lack of transparency and accountability. It has been unchecked for a very long time.

Both primary and secondary stakeholders act in their self-interest. These stakeholders have had ample opportunity to be non-transparent and non-accountable. All the stakeholders have abused the healthcare system.

I hit a nerve with my last blog “Patients And Physicians Must Control Costs”. Multiple readers responded with the usual comments:

Patients are not smart enough to handle their own healthcare dollars.”

“Your basic idea makes sense, but in reality I doubt that a patient knows enough to make intelligent medical/financial decisions, because there are too many unknowns and variables.”

“Physicians over use the fee for service system in order to make more money.”

“If a physician tells a patient that there is only a 1/10,000 chance that an MRI will yield something useful, if the patient doesn’t have to pay for it, the patient wants the MRI.

Patients (consumers) must be taught and motivated to manage their own healthcare dollars. Patients’ choice Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Repairing the Healthcare System*

Tips To Become An Empowered Health Consumer

Empowered health consumers know how to take charge of their health and are proactive in their care.

Whether they’re surfing the web for health information, visiting their doctor or health care professional, or a patient in the hospital; empowered health consumers know how to question and communicate.

This blog is a continuation of the “He Said, She Said” post where I promised to give you tips about how to be an empowered health consumer.

Sabriya Rice, CNN Medical Producer had a similar idea.

Here are my 3 tips to help you become an empowered health consumer: Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Health in 30*

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

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How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

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Latest Book Reviews

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When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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