Patient empowerment is intended to help patients. Like any power, it can harm. Patients may suffer untoward consequences if through their efforts to get good care they alienate the healthcare team. Patients may suffer if their decisions that stir pleasurable feelings of empowerment are made...
- Without all the necessary facts needed to make wise decisions.
- With unconscious biases influencing them adversely.
- With unconscious fears or emotional needs driving their decisions.
No words can convey how strongly I believe in patient autonomy and patient empowerment. This belief explains why I spend most of my waking time trying to help patients obtain sound knowledge, find realistic hope and take effective action, not just about medical decisions, but also about every factor that plays into their getting good care and living as fully as possible.
- know their strengths and weaknesses in obtaining knowledge and taking proper action.
- listen if knowledgeable experts and/or their loved ones express concerns about their decisions or actions.
- use language that fosters a sense of shared mission.
- accept assistance, whenever needed.
When dealing with people and when dealing with our modern medical system, patients may have to work to make themselves heard, understood or taken care of. Sometimes letting go of power and/or accepting assistance demonstrates the greatest power, if that is the surest path to getting the best care and/or living as fully as possible.