Patient-centered interventions are on the rise as an emphasis is being placed on empowering the patient and the caregiver. In the IOM Report Best Care at Lower Cost, a characteristic of a continuously learning health care system was defined as establishing patient-clinician partnerships through engaged and empowered patients.1 Specifically defined, the report emphasized, “A learning health care system is anchored on patient needs and perspectives and promotes the inclusion of patients, families, and other caregivers as vital members of the continuously learning care team.”1

In a subsequent IOM Report, Delivering High-Quality Cancer Care: Charting a New Course for a System in Crisis, the engaged patient was identified as a key component of a high-quality cancer care delivery system that supports patients in making informed medical decisions aligned with their needs, values, and preferences in consultation with their clinicians, who have expertise in patient-centered communication and shared decision making.

Importantly, clinicians should recognize the variation in e-patients’ knowledge and skill sets. The health care team can play a significant role in empowering patients to take a more active role in their care by igniting a participatory relationship. A simple checklist of “10 things every patient needs to know” can help patients become more empowered (Table 1). What steps are you taking to empower your patients? What would you add to this list?

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Table 1. Ten things every patient needs to know1

• Don’t be afraid to tell your story
• Write down your questions and make sure to ask them
• Know your options so you can make informed decisions
• Reconcile medications at every visit
• Get a second opinion
• Designate an advocate
• Stay organized
• Take charge of your care and maintain access to your records
• Stay connected
• Partner with your care team and share your knowledge

Sarah Krüg is CEO of Cancer101.org, an organization that empowers patients and caregivers to take control over their diagnoses, navigate the cancer journey, and partner with their health care team to make informed decisions through a variety of tools and resources.  


1. Committee on the Learning Health Care System in America; Institute of Medicine; Smith M, Saunders R, Stuckhardt L, McGinnis JM. Best Care at Lower Cost: The Path to Continuously Learning Health Care in America. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press; 2013.

2. Levit LA, Balogh EP, Nass SJ, Ganz PA, eds. Delivering High-Quality Cancer Care: Charting a New Course for a System in Crisis. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press; 2013.