Thursday, 15 November 2012

Reframing patient empowerment

It's good to talk - and following a chat with friend and colleague Bill Russell. I've been thinking about why it is "patient empowerment" doesn't seem to work in practice.

Firstly, it is an irony (check here for a definition and more info on what irony is). There is a dissonance between its implied meaning and what it literally means. Just thinking of the term assumes that someone other than the patient has power - and by creating a program or concept called "patient empowerment" comes across as them with the power trying to give them without the power, some of their power - ultimately the ones with the power are still power-full.  Hence the irony.

Secondly, who thought you in healthcare had the power anyway?  As a patient I am the only person who has power of my health  I may need help from health professionals, the gym instructor, my mother, advice from the bookclub ladies, thoughts from the parish priest etc.  The issue is that I may be seeking a way that health providers do not take away the power I have when I access them.

Thirdly, maybe thinking it is all about power is the problem.  Power itself has no use unless it is applied, employed, or used. This process is called influencing. Some people, with little obvious power can get a lot done through effective influencing - and vice versa. So I wonder what would be different if we thought about the relationship/s and the influencing flows between patients and healthcare providers?

Please add a comment if you have any reframing propositions for "patient empowerment"

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