As stated, over the next fortnight or so, I will expand on each one of the ten steps outlined in yesterday's post.
Step one is to learn from other's experience!
What this means is that we must be able to accept that the empowerment that other patients have achieved to date is a good thing - both for them and for the healthcare system. You need to accept this because if you do not, then you will never achieve anything close to your own state of empowerment.
Why? Because it is too hard to achieve and the journey is too long and fraught with all sorts of obstacles. If you are not fully committed, then I guarantee you will terminate the effort long before you get there.
Therefore, you must want it - you must believe in it! It must be a very important goal in your overall life. After all, this is about your health and there really should not be anything more important any way!
The basic issue is whether you leave the management of this part of your life up to others or whether you begin to take charge and partner in your care.
I must re-emphasize, however, that you are not alone. Involved in your care should be your family members and friends that are and have been there for you. In addition, there may be contacts that you have made (some of which are very necessary to promote empowerment) that should also be included. So when I state that YOU must be involved in your care management, it is understood that I mean "YOU and YOUR TEAM".
The key, of course, is to make sure that this team is active in the decision making process and is there to help facilitate your care.
Okay - why should you believe in this so passionately?
Great qestion - and I will give you an answer from today! My doctor is out of town and his secretary is on vacation, however, I need to get a lab test done. I know this because I have been watching my health indicators and when one of them goes out of the accepted interval, this lab test is then required. I help my physician in managing this by giving him a head's up... this way we both stay on top of things and I get my appropriate care long before otherwise - because the old system would have my doctor check labs routinely and then order the follow-up tests at that time. With me staying on top of it, being more empowered, this cuts out a week or more of waiting...which improves my care - better care and more timely care MUST lead to better health. Unfortunately, my story for today does not end there.
The problem is that there is no one in the office to order the lab work. I sent an email to my doctor, and he asked another physician in the same service to place the order - and asked me to follow-up with him to get the time for the test. As such, I phoned today to get the time and the other doctor's secretary asked me: "Where did you get this number?" Not what test, or how can I help, or even what is this about ... no just: "who told you to call this number?!"
Now, be honest, does that even remotely sound like patient centred care?
No - of course not! When I provided some details, I was told that the test had NOT even been scheduled and that the other doctor would get back to me. So far, I have not heard, and I am not holding my breath! I have no idea why I would now need to speak to another physician about the simplicities of ordering lab work when one physician has already placed the order!?
There are two lessons - this awareness and growth of patients with voices has to happen throughout healthcare and not just with the patient. And, even the most ardent patient advocate will face obstacles. I have emailed my doctor back and will find another work around so as to get my lab work by tomorrow. However, any other patient may have backed down and stopped advocating for himself due to the system resistance. My response is - you cannot! We must continue to make change.
We need awareness and education - and you need to be able to share the experiences of the many - myself and many more people who have experienced the benefits of patient empowerment.