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Patient participation: What it is and why it matters

We opened the recent healthcare series of posts by looking at the shifting nature of patient outcomes, interoperability, and distributed healthcare. Incorporating all three of these topics, is the increasingly important healthcare process known as patient participation. While patient empowerment is a similar meaning term and may be preferred from a patient advocacy point of view, patient participation is more widely accepted way to describe the process in which patients understand their role in the management of their health, are given the knowledge and skills by their health-care provider to perform a task in an environment that recognizes community and cultural differences and encourages their involvement.

Four components are critical to the process of patient participation: 1) understanding by the patient of his/her role; 2) acquisition by patients of sufficient knowledge to be able to engage with their healthcare provider; 3) patient skills; and 4) the presence of a facilitating environment

It’s about fostering a system that puts patients at the centre of the healthcare decision making process. That may seem like common sense, but the reality of the state of healthcare can be very different as limited resources come under increased demand and expectations of treatment continue to rise. Given those challenges and constraints, how can the industry and patients engage in a collaborative approach to healthcare for improved outcomes?

Well, prior to relatively recent improvements in technology, patient participation was restricted to SDM. SDM is simply where clinicians and patients share the best available evidence when faced with the task of making decisions, and where patients are supported to consider options, to achieve informed preferences. As you can imagine, the way SDM takes shape is highly variable and because it’s a relatively passive process, patients may not even know they have the ability to influence their treatment or treatment plans. Additionally, it puts quite an onus on the patient to come up to speed with the subject and context of their health. Clearly this is a huge ask for the average person with little to no background in health!

Fortunately, the medical information landscape is changing for both the practitioner and the lay person. Changes in modern technology allow computers to act as a source of information and advice. They are playing a more central role in the discovery and diagnosis phase of medicine as well as identifying treatment given the trade-offs between a range of attributes and considerations. How is this made possible? It turns out, with the aid of artificial intelligence (AI) software, computers are very good at considering all possible (known) options and devising an optimal solution. Don't like the one the computer generated? Feel it's not plausible for some reason? That's OK! Change the parameters of your “problem” and let the computer solve it again.

We're oversimplifying the process a bit, but with technology organisations like IBM and Google rapidly driving AI healthcare innovation forward, it won't be long before organising complex health plans is as simple as coordinating patient and practitioner in a virtual meeting room. Each party armed with the information that's valuable in helping to arrive at an equitable and considered action plan.

With AI supported disruption and improved outcomes occurring in healthcare-services, how long will it be until this kind of change in the service provider/service receiver dynamic makes its way into other industries? One of the critical sources of value in a service-based exchange is the subject matter expertise of the provider. If this is to be supplemented (or perhaps negated) by AI, then what other value must they provide? These questions lead us into our May topic “The Changing Nature of Services”. We'll cover this topic from a few different angles to explore perspectives of customers, providers, and the overarching macro-economy.

Published Date:

May 4, 2022

Read Time:

3 minutes


Team Tidy