The digital age has facilitated engagement and empowerment, as e-patients use resources to gather information, obtain support, and connect with one another. But what is an e-patient? E-patients are health consumers who are
- Engaged in their care
- Educated on their condition
- Equipped with a skillset to manage their condition
- Enabled to make informed decisions
- Experts on their day-to-day lives
- Equal partners in the circle of care
Although technology serves as a catalyst in empowering the patient, digital is not implicit in the definition of an e-patient. A patient can be empowered without being Internet-savvy; although, online resources and connections on the Internet can facilitate empowerment.
EXPERTISE OF THE PATIENT
Clinicians have traditionally been drivers of health care, whereas patients were merely passengers. The clinician-patient relationship was somewhat paternalistic based on the clinician’s expertise. In this case, the physical illness or symptoms may have been treated, rather than the whole complex patient. However, the traditional medical model has been disrupted by the emergence of the e-patient and an evolving patient-centered landscape.
Patients, once invisible stakeholders in the health care system, are now recognized for the unique expertise they provide. Today, the e-patient owns their chronic disease, and the clinician-patient relationship is participatory in nature and based on a shared expertise. In the patient-centered model, the patient and clinician are partners in determining care where the clinician’s medical expertise is combined with the patient’s day-to-day life expertise to determine the most appropriate treatment pathway based on the needs, preferences, and barriers of the patient.
E-patients are patients who take an active role in the management of their health and share responsibility for aspects of their care. Patients who have a comprehensive understanding of their condition and an in-depth understanding of the health system can have a greater sense of control. Arming patients with skills to manage their condition can also provide them with a sense of self-efficacy. Combined, that sense of control and self-efficacy can facilitate communication with the health care team and collaboration on important decisions that impact the patient’s care. Ultimately, the patient is empowered as a key partner on the health care team.
Patients can play a significant role in improving their care by
- Understanding the cause of their disease and factors that influence health
- Making informed choices about their care through an understanding of risks and benefits
- Sharing decisions about treatments aligned with needs and preferences
- Managing medications appropriately
- Monitoring and managing symptoms
- Observing and checking care processes, including accuracy of medical records
- Adopting healthy behaviors to prevent occurrence or recurrence of disease