The Job of the Patient
When we look at the idea of the modern multi-layered health care team and the patient’s role within that team, things have dramatically changed.
Not too long ago, the physician was the key decision-maker. In some cases, it was doctor and patient as a duo. Now, we have a wealth of professionals who provide depth of care and, in the ideal setting, the patient is at the center.
The patient is the decision-maker now, and should be engaged in the care he or she receives. When patients realize this change in roles and that they need to lead the care team, it’s a winning situation.
One of the reasons for this change is the cost of care. Patients, in many cases, are paying more for the care they receive, and therefore have a vested interest in being a discerning decision-maker.
So what are some of their job duties in this role? There are a few key obligations:
Care teams want you to be engaged and to have questions for us, and that could be about how to treat an illness or injury, alternatives to the recommended treatment and yes, questions about costs. The days when a doctor would bristle because of patient questions are, happily, long gone.
When a physician can counsel you about the things you read online or watched on Youtube, that shows that you, as a patient, are engaged enough to look through information and inform yourself. It shows learning is occurring. We want that, but at the same time …
Doctors often meet with extremely engaged patients who may have more insight on a very specific topic than we do – initially. But use your care team as a filter for the nearly infinite amount of online information. Bring your ideas, but also an appreciation for the formal expertise we earned with our medical training.
Strive to learn and to communicate
Many patients, no matter their age, may not thrive in a situation where they have many decisions to make and a care-team to direct. That’s natural! Learning your role – and asking lots of questions – is about the best way for the team to gel.
Patients who get frustrated are often not engaged or ignore their role as decision-makers. They then feel they are “having things done to them.” We, as a care team, want you to feel better, but if you just walk off without asking the questions – or following the directions for a medication, for example – our team is not going to win, because we have lost your direction, engagement and that just doesn’t work.
If we consider the team approach – with the patient as the decision-maker at the center of the team – we can see the job of the patient requires attention and commitment. But being your own strongest advocate is a logical place to start and one where you’ll be able to best harness the strength of your health care team.