A Risk of Empowering Patients--Part II

A Risk of Empowering Patients--Part II

Not all patients embrace the idea of patient empowerment. In particular, some patients don't want to be actively involved in their treatment decisions. Others don't want to hear lists of things they should be doing to optimize their outcome. Why?

Of the many possibilities, one is a fear that if things don't turn out well, it'll be their fault. Anticipatory guilt and regret pushes them to avoid any responsibility for their recovery. That's understandable to anyone who has ever played a role in one's own troubles and knows how super-awful it can feel. For example, after a car wreck, someone who was at fault might want to stop driving (at least for a while). Avoiding the responsibility will prevent them from feeling that sense of guilt again. 

Here's the problem: Some tasks can only be fulfilled by patients, such as...

  • Providing information at consultations and checkups that impacts decisions about diagnostic workups and therapeutic interventions
  • Reporting changes or problems that develop between doctor visits
  • Pursuing health-promoting measures between office visits

Patients who shy away from empowerment and who don't try to control healing measures they can control are taking risks, including...

  • Decision-makers don't have information that would lead to different decisions.
  • Complications and aftereffects develop that might have been prevented, lessened or delayed.
  • Realizing and regretting a treatment decision that was not the best for them.

In the end, action is how you affect--not control--your circumstances. Patient empowerment means acting in ways that help you. 

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