Empowering patients to take control of their health
Dr Tim Ringrose, CEO of Doctors.net.uk, and Chairman of the Patient Centred Approach conference on July 4, explores some of the challenges and opportunities involved in placing patients at the heart of decision-making.
‘The patient-centred approach’ is a key theme within the Government’s Health and Social Care Bill and could play a critical role in disease prevention as well as cure if people are educated and inspired to take responsibility for their health by improving their lifestyle.
But how can the Government support people before they become ill and help them to avoid chronic conditions, such as diabetes, which currently accounts for about 10% of NHS spending, as well as involve them in making decisions about their treatment and provide integrated, tailored care when they need it?
From a patient perspective, the desire for a ‘no decision about me without me’ culture within the NHS is strong and although doctors are still the most trusted professionals, the days when the majority of patients accepted their decisions without question are long gone.
The vast amount of health related information available online is largely responsible for this change and it has transformed the way that patients interact with doctors to such an extent that research suggests people are more likely to go online to get information and advice, than consult their GP.
A 28-country survey of health attitudes and decision-making, undertaken last autumn by the voluntary trade association, International Research Institutes, found that 71% of respondents in the UK used websites to source information on the health issues of most concern to them – while 67% consulted their GP about the same issues.
With so much information at their fingertips, patients do not simply want healthcare services; they want to be given advice and support to help them make their own decisions. And this desire for collaboration and responsibility presents opportunities to educate them about lifestyle issues that affect their health to provide preventative care too.
However, the shift in patients’ attitudes has not been easy for doctors. Medical training has tended to focus on the more traditional, paternalistic approach; and many doctors feel threatened by the way patients are trying to assert control; hence some actively resist it.
There are two fundamental reasons for this concern. Firstly, many doctors genuinely believe that it is better for them to give advice and make decisions, based on their knowledge and experience, than to try to work collaboratively with patients.
There are also practical considerations – GPs have only a ten minute slot in which to see patients who attend their surgeries and becoming embroiled in lengthy discussions about treatment options would significantly increase their workload.
There are clearly many barriers to adopting the kind of collaborative relationships that both patients and the Government demand. However, these issues need to be addressed since encouraging patients to get involved in decisions about their care and to take responsibility for improving their health could bring huge benefits to the NHS as well as the individual.
The Patient Centred Approach conference, which takes place in London on July 4, offers a timely opportunity to hear experts give their opinions on how healthcare services can put the patient at the heart of decision-making, improve outcomes and tailor care to meet individual needs.
The keynote speaker at the event at Central Hall Westminster will be Dr David Bennett, Chairman and interim Chief Executive of Monitor. David believes that a new integrated approach needs to be made now. His presentation entitled, ‘Integrating care, knocking down barriers, improving outcomes’, will explore how to make integration a reality and on a significant scale across the health system.
Other speakers during the morning will include Dr Jocelyn Cornwell, Director of The Point of Care programme, The King's Fund, who will make a speech entitled ‘Putting the Patient First – what’s stopping us?’; while Dr Susan Hamer, Director for Patient and Public Involvement, National Institute for Health Research Clinical Research Network; Fellow of the Queen's Nursing Institute, will speak on the theme of ‘Patient-led innovation: The potential of choice and the challenge of disruption’.
These speeches will be followed by a question and answer session and a series of Master Classes. Afternoon speeches by Dr Michael Dixon OBE, Chair, NHS Alliance, and Dr James Kingsland OBE, National Clinical Lead, NHS Clinical Commissioning Community; President, National Association of Primary Care, will be concluded with a panel debate on ‘Delivering choice, flexibility and an integrated approach’.
For more details on the event log on to www.publicserviceevents.co.uk/220/a-patient-centred-approach