Barriers to Patient Participation in the Healthcare Experience
Of all the areas in your medical practice that can undergo innovation, perhaps nowhere else can you experience increasingly exponential returns than when you take the time to focus on patient engagement. After all, the healthcare process should be a collaborative one that foster’s trust, caring, and conversation.
The Traditional Physician-Patient Relationship
Traditionally, the doctor has been seen as the leader in the physician-patient relationship, with the patient being relegated to more of a “spectator” role during diagnosis and treatment. It seems natural to let the doctor take the lead throughout the whole process; however, modern medicine has now realized the vital role patients have in the process of their own health. Even so, the process of increasing patient engagement is one that is still fraught with barriers. Discovering what they are and why they exist is something every healthcare practitioner should understand.
What are the Barriers?
One of the main reasons why patients are reluctant to engage is because there is a deeply ingrained, traditional view of the physician-patient relationship. They believe it is their role to be subservient and that the doctor is the sole delegator and person in power. This view is perpetuated especially when there is failure to develop deeper relationships with patients on the part of the physician.
Lack of Knowledge
A common barrier to patient participation in the healthcare process is lack of knowledge. Many times patients only know how they feel – their immediate symptoms due to illness or injury. When physicians fail to engage with the purpose of educating, and only seek to treat the condition, they miss out on opportunities to make their patients more powerful through knowledge and understanding. One study showed that patients who were being treated for ulcers were much more likely to offer their opinion and input, and to ask questions after being given a brief 20 minute educational session.
Severity of Disease
Patients are much more likely to engage when illness or injury are minor. However, when conditions become much more serious, or when there are multiple health factors thrown into the equation, patient participation drops dramatically. Often they look to their care provider for direction and rely exclusively on their expertise.
Your Patient Engagement can be Increased and Improved
Patient engagement in the healthcare process is critical to your success as a practitioner and their overall well-being. Identifying what your own barriers are is key in being able to address and implement changes that will make the physician-patient relationship more collaborative than ever before.
Levinson W, Kao A, Kuby A, Thisted RA
J Gen Intern Med. 2005 Jun; 20(6):531-5.