“Patient activation” is the new buzzword threatening to replace “patient engagement” – long before many patients have actually been, you know, engaged.
Apparently, we no longer bother to to wait for our terminology to take on meaning before we feel compelled to replace it.
As it stands, neither term has much meaning or basis in reality. The basic idea, however, is that shared decision-making between doctors and their patients yields better treatment compliance and results. This requires a level of health literacy that’s sorely missing today.
It’s a noble goal, but will remain elusive as long as payment schemes fail to incorporate measures of patient engagement that impact how much doctors and hospitals are paid.
Many Americans are still uncomfortable with the idea that their doctors are often more interested in making money than helping their patients. The idea that some are even willing to imperil their patients’ safety by needlessly putting them in dangerous hospitals to protect themselves from potential lawsuits is abhorrent to a public that continues to have a high degree of trust in the medical profession.
This high level of trust is often misplaced, however, as I’ve described in Our Healthcare Sucks and in previous posts (see here, here and here). These posts address hospital billing practices that pad the bills that many patients will have to pay themselves (i.e., they’re not covered by Medicare or private insurers). They also address scurrilous practices by physician oncologists treating cancer patients more aggressively with toxic chemotherapy drugs to fatten their incomes.
Is this really trustworthy behavior? Or are we truly a nation of suckers?
And will patient engagement or patient activation make any difference in this grand disconnect between our healthcare perceptions and reality?