Not all clinicians are in favor of patient empowerment

Doctor with patient
Twenty-one percent of doctors surveyed are annoyed by empowered patients.

Whether patient empowerment is good or bad may depend on whom you ask.

Most of the 1,089 physicians and nurses who responded to a recent Medscape poll said patient empowerment is helpful in their practice.

But there was a big split between doctors and nurses, according to a Medscape report. A little more than half of the physicians (54%) said patient empowerment was helpful, compared with 82% of nurses. And some physicians just find empowerment annoying.


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Indeed, one-fifth of doctors said empowerment is annoying, four times the percentage of nurses (5%). Some 39% of physicians said patients’ research makes care more difficult. Both doctors and nurses agreed when patients do their own research it adds time to an office visit.

RELATED: Doc: Empower patients in decision-making to reduce medical errors

Just what is patient empowerment? The two most common definitions selected by doctors and nurses were that a patient asks about pros and cons of treatment options and drug side effects and that a patient takes an active role in deciding which treatment, drug or therapy would be most useful.

RELATED: Online portals top list of patient engagement tools

But when it comes to whether they think their patients are empowered, a majority of both physicians and nurses said less than a quarter of their patients meet the definition.

Better patient engagement takes time and effort on the part of physicians and staff—and organizations need to account for that when they design programs. Almost two-thirds of those surveyed about patient engagement programs by NEJM Catalyst point to a lack of reimbursement for the extra time required by health teams as the primary challenge confronting designers. 

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