For many people, the coronavirus pandemic brought the importance of health into sharp focus. We saw a huge difference in attitudes to self-care as early as July 2020. Studies at the time found that 77% of people in the UK now consider it essential to take health into their own hands to relieve pressure on healthcare systems.
Patients want to be equal partners in healthcare decisions.
What Can Healthcare Providers Do to Increase Patient Empowerment?
At the height of the pandemic, a survey found that 64% of people were encountering false or misleading health information at least once a day. With so much unfiltered information available on social media, it can be difficult for patients to separate fact from fiction.
Effective patient education combats misinformation and helps patients understand important aspects of their health and care. By debunking myths and easing concerns, healthcare providers can ensure their patients endorse the treatment they’re receiving and make recovery more straightforward.
This isn’t to suggest clinicians don’t already do a fantastic job of communicating with their patients. What we’re suggesting is modernising that conversation by incorporating technology patients are already familiar with. This removes some of the barriers that can sometimes exist when a patient is presented with important information completely new to them.
Clinicians can use patient engagement suites to explain the diagnosis, possible treatments and self-care options with total clarity. Patients get the information they need from a trusted source rather than unverified alternatives and are less likely to feel they aren’t part of key decisions.
Many healthcare providers continue to offer video consultations with patients even as we return to some kind of normality. This is a move liked by some but criticised by others and it’s easy to see both points of view. What’s crucial is patients have the choice. Some patients struggle to schedule appointments because of other commitments. Video consultations mean all patients feel empowered.
It’s easy to think patient empowerment is something that starts and stops in the exam room. Patients don’t stop caring about their health on the drive home and neither should healthcare providers.
In seconds, patients can access all kinds of material on a particular condition or treatment. It's never been more critical for providers to create clear and achievable action plans, broken down into simple, measurable steps that can be communicated online.
Whether it’s through a blog, a hub of NHS material or by video consultation as mentioned above, providers must do more to support patients as they process their healthcare plans and naturally ask questions.
This information should be digestible by anyone that might need to learn more about their health. If the material can only be understood by someone with a medical degree, then patients will grow frustrated and look elsewhere for advice. Similarly, it’s the responsibility of providers to ensure vital information is accessible in different languages and formats to suit the needs of all patients.
A recurring theme has been the need for healthcare providers to utilise modern technology to overcome some of the challenges of patient empowerment. Online consultations and patient engagement suites are just two examples where the answer to empowered patients lies in investment in technology.
Wearable devices are another way how patients can better feel involved in their own healthcare. Fitbits, smartwatches and even smartphones have the capacity to monitor and analyse our health at any given moment.
The number of these connected wearable devices is expected to reach 1.1 billion in 2022, indicating that this trend is on the rise. It’s hardly a surprise following the pandemic that many of us want to know as soon as possible if something isn’t quite right with our health.
Information like blood sugar levels, heart rate and body fat percentage are now measurable at the touch of a button from the comfort of our own home. Instead of waiting for their next consultation to hear about their progress, a patient can understand exactly what’s happening with their body. These cold hard statistics give patients a digestible way to track their health and make positive changes.
Solutions That Drive Patient Empowerment
WiFi SPARK creates technological solutions with both clinicians and patients in mind. Take SPARK® Media, for example, which can be used to better communicate a patient’s specific treatment and condition via their own device. It’s an effective way of bridging any gaps in a patient’s understanding from a verified source.
To learn more about SPARK® Media and the other innovative patient technologies we have available for healthcare providers, download our most recent brochure using the link below.