“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*
Fortune magazine has made some news recently about the impact of healthcare reform on large employers:
Internal documents recently reviewed by Fortune, originally requested by Congress, show what the bill’s critics predicted, and what its champions dreaded: many large companies are examining a course that was heretofore unthinkable, dumping the healthcare coverage they provide to their workers in exchange for paying penalty fees to the government.
The only trouble? There’s no way these employers are seriously thinking about doing this.
I can understand why the employers would do the math. According to healthcare reform law, penalties for failing to provide health coverage are a small fraction of the cost of that coverage. But as with most everything else in healthcare, there’s much more to it than just a simple math equation. Here’s what I mean. Read more »
*This blog post was originally published at See First Blog*
An article in the New York Times this week looks at a raft of new public health initiatives passed by Congress that are aimed at boosting disease prevention. Examples include requiring restaurants with at least 20 locations to include nutrition information on their menus and mandating employers with at least 50 employees to allow new mothers to express breast milk at work. In addition, Medicaid will now cover smoking cessation counseling for pregnant women and Medicare beneficiaries will be eligible for an annual physical. The initiatives are expected to eventually save money by decreasing the country’s chronic disease burden. (New York Times)
Researchers from Johns Hopkins University recently did a study applying physicians’ ethical codes to the conduct of the fictional doctors on “Grey’s Anatomy” and “House, M.D.” Perhaps to no one’s surprise, TV doctors are behaving very badly. As the abstract of the study states, both shows feature “egregious deviations from the norms of professionalism and contain exemplary depictions of professionalism to a much lesser degree.” (Philadelphia Inquirer, Journal of Medical Ethics)
*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*