I’ve (finally) released my report: Engaging and Empowering Patients with Consumer eHealth Solutions – Fostering Patient Expertise. The report is the product of the CIHR Science Policy Fellowship I recently completed. The report was jointly sponsored by Health Canada. The report focuses on analyzing the potential of eHealth solutions for patient engagement and empowerment in a patient centred health care system.
The full report, which outlines several policy recommendations and considerations, is available here.
Here’s a snippet from the Executive Summary:
We are told that we are on the precipice of a health care crisis, and that in order to avoid it we must “bend the health care cost curve”. eHealth technologies are one way of bending the cost curve, in that they promise to enable novel efficiencies in the health care system. One such set of efficiencies relies on engaging and empowering patients in a model of delivery referred to as patient centred care (PCC).
PCC is meant, in part, to change the role of the patient within the health care system from “passive recipient” of health care services, to “active participant” in their own health care and in the health care system more broadly. Evidence suggests that empowering patients in this way produces benefits both for the patient (e.g. better health outcomes, higher satisfaction with care), and to the health care system (e.g. new efficiencies in health care delivery).
Consumer Health Solutions (CHSs) are technologies that can engage and empower patients, helping them to become more active participants in their own health care and in the health care system more generally.
However, PCC can be implemented in practice along a continuum of patient engagement and empowerment. At the “thin” end of the continuum, few of the benefits of PCC are realized. At the “thicker” end, however, patients are more likely to reap the beneficial outcomes associated with PCC. At this end patients are also referred to as “experts” in their own care.
“Patient expertise” is a useful concept for thinking about the link between PCC and the outcomes associated with PCC. Patient expertise is holistic in the way that it ties the various features of PCC together, and also emphasizes the role that patient communities can play in engaging and empowering patients, as they strive to better manage their own health care.
A better understanding of patient expertise allows for a focused and nuanced understanding of PCC. Understanding patient expertise can also help to explain how patients move from being relatively unempowered and unengaged, to highly empowered and engaged within the health care system.
The language of patient expertise supports a detailed analysis of the features designed into CHSs, as they relate to fostering patient expertise and delivering health benefits associated with PCC. By examining a CHS’s features it is possible to analyze in what respect it might foster patient expertise, and to gain some insight into the CHS’s likelihood of delivering beneficial health and health system outcomes. Examining a CHS’s features through the lens of patient expertise also makes it clear that CHSs can foster patient expertise in ways that traditional health system arrangements likely cannot, particularly because of their ability to enable the formation and maintenance of robust patient communities.
The key takeaway of this report is that:
“Patient Expertise provides a conceptual lens through which we can analyze Consumer Health Solutions (CHSs), in order to understand how to effectively leverage CHSs to deliver the benefits associated with Patient Centred Care (PCC) and patient expertise.”