Last week US News & World Report ran a “slide show” (series of short pages) with tips from 10 empowered patients. They’re all good – I recommend you go read them. (Click the graphic, or click here.)
Knowing that other patients would be giving lots of tips, for mine I decided to focus in mine on something that’s been on my mind a lot lately:
We’ve learned that the patient movement shares patterns with other cultural awakenings. Who knew?
I’m 64 years old. In the ’60s I learned that step one of empowerment is to know what you want. Step two is consciousness raising: Realize who’s saying what to whom, and what assumptions that might imply. Perhaps it’s what you’d like; if not, step three is to ask for it.
Enlightened patients (and clinicians) know that nobody knows everything – neither patient nor clinician – and approach it as a partnership, in what we call ‘participatory medicine.’
It feels a little odd to be teaching empowerment principles (which I learned in college long ago) to a mass market audience, but increasingly I see this is what we need to do.
This is no small issue – it’s not just about patient rights per se. If people haven’t thought about what they want, and haven’t become conscious of what’s happening around them, and haven’t asked for what they want, then when advocates request change, earnest physicians have every right to say, “Look, my patients aren’t asking for this.”
So think about what you want, and see whether things are going the way you want. That applies both in a hospital and in a doctor’s office – anytime you’re tending to someone’s health, including your own.