Bridging the HCP-Patient Gap

Apr 01, 2011
By Pharmaceutical Executive Editors

Little does one realize that a harmonious relationship must exist between a philharmonic's conductor and his orchestra to ensure a flawless performance. The conductor determines tempo, encourages precise composition of notes, and listens critically to contour the sound of the ensemble, which unifies the orchestra. The craft of conducting requires the ability to inspire, stimulate, and challenge the performers. A symphonic experience is also highly dependent on the skill set of the performers, and only those capable of delivering musical expressions in synch with the conductor's guidance will be successful. It is this type of symbiotic relationship that we in the healthcare setting can learn from and apply to the healthcare provider (HCP)/patient relationship.

The Catalyst to Change

Patients are an all-too-often invisible stakeholder in the healthcare system. The traditional provider-centric healthcare model focuses on the medical disease, with the HCP viewed as the 'knowing' expert and the patient a 'passive' recipient. However, the roles have shifted, and patients are taking a more active stance in their disease management. In this case, both patients and HCPs are experts: Patients are experts on their lives and experiences, and HCPs are experts on the art and science of medicine. Catalyzed by new technology, a patient revolution is under way: Patients are seeking and sharing more healthcare information online and are increasingly showing a desire to be equal partners in the participatory medicine movement.

Patient empowerment is the missing catalyst in affecting change and is based on basic principles of engagement, knowledge, skills, and attitudes, which affect behavior changes that can improve treatment concordance, adverse event management, and mitigate medical errors. A patient is empowered when provided with sufficient knowledge to make informed decisions, given adequate control and resources to implement their choices, and is armed with the necessary experiences to evaluate the effectiveness and impact of the steps taken. Essentially, patients may be architects of their own success, but this requires that they be recognized as a partner in the circle of care.

The Conundrum

Patient Centered Healthcare
Despite its theoretical appeal, the concept of a healthcare partnership has been sporadically embraced and adopted into practice. A major impediment is that few HCPs are equipped with the skill set, tools, or system support to encourage patients to consider outcomes, ask questions, and clarify preferences within allocated consultation times. In addition, most medical encounters focus on defining the problem rather than discussing alternative treatment pathways and associated risks/benefits based on the patient profile.

To foster the transformation of the HCP/patient relationship, the traditional medical encounter must evolve into one that is more interactive in nature and based on shared expertise, to allow for informed decisions to be made. The question is, How?

The empowered patient is emerging as a key opportunity in transforming the healthcare landscape. How do we embrace the patient revolution and leverage it as we educate HCPs more effectively? How can we seize opportunities to allow for a true partnership that can lead to improved patient outcomes?

The Path Forward

Ultimately a future with improved outcomes is contingent upon the evolution of the HCP/patient relationship. A few key interdependent principles can bridge the gap and guide this change:
» Embed patient-centered care and patient education theory into the HCP's lifelong learning curriculum;
» Educate HCPs on the benefits and workflow integration of resources and tools to enable the patient as a healthcare partner;
» Embrace the concept of personalized healthcare that provides tailored options based on the patient profile; and
» Integrate collaborative assessment and decision-making into practice to allow for goals and action plans to be successful.

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