Embracing Patient Empowerment

Gadgets and technology are not just for entertainment. They also play a key role in patient empowerment.

Throughout the history of medicine, patients usually played a passive role in the doctor-patient relationship. For instance, when a person fell sick, he or she would consult a medical expert. The expert would then tell the patient what to do in order to feel better and recover. In other words, it was a “do as I say” type of relationship where patients rarely made any decisions related to their own health.

However, times have changed. These days, many doctors do far more than just offer medical solutions. These forward-thinking doctors involve and share in depth information with their patients in order to encourage them to participate and commit to their health.

This is what is known as patient empowerment. With this kind of empowerment, the doctor will provide patients with vital information about their medical condition, prepare them on what to expect next, discuss treatment options and be there for them when they raise any concerns. These actions help patients to feel included; encouraging them to be active and involved with their health.


A patient’s experience

Marie Lim* shares a recent trip to the doctor which she says, made her think hard about her role as a patient. With the help of the doctor, she was able to make her own decisions about her health. “I consulted an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist as my allergic rhinitis symptoms were suddenly getting worse. It was making my life terribly miserable as all I wanted was to stay in bed. I couldn’t complete my daily tasks well,” she shares.

Lim later found out that she had an infection and to alleviate her symptoms, treatment was necessary. “The doctor explained to me what the cause was and he then proceeded to share treatment options. Instead of prescribing treatment immediately, he proceeded to ask me which type of treatment I would like,” she says. “He also reminded me to take my lifestyle into account so I would be able to decide which option would be the best one for me.” Lim’s doctor also shared the possible pros and cons of each treatment option.

Thanks to her doctor’s progressive approach, Lim felt empowered and inspired to take the decision-making process seriously. Since she chose her own treatment, Lim also felt committed to follow through and make the necessary lifestyle changes to alleviate her allergy problem. “If the doctor did not tell me about my treatment options as well as it pros and cons, I would not have fully understood the treatment and he would have prescribed a treatment option which may not have been suitable for me,” she explains.

During her recovery process, Lim also had some questions about her condition which she was able to solve quickly by communicating with her doctor via e-mail instead of driving all the way to the medical center. This made her feel independent as she was able to take charge of her health. Lim’s positive experience shows the importance of patient empowerment. This can and should be applied to all patients, especially those with chronic illnesses.


Modern day patient empowerment

The good news is, with technology, doctors are able to empower their patients through various digital platforms. Technology has made patient empowerment possible for both healthcare providers and patients. For instance, doctors in Malaysia have started using private social media groups as a way to communicate with patients and for patients to play an active role in sharing their experience with other patients.

Living in an ageing population and with a worrying increase in the number of patients struggling with diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular problems and hypertension, both doctors and patients are now able to connect better to for better results. Smartphones, tablets, computers, home monitoring devices and health apps are now used to deliver information, care and support to both parties.

In fact, forerunners in Malaysia’s healthcare industry are also starting to shift from a manual medical data systems to cloud-based ones (data systems which is web-based). This makes the healthcare system more transparent, efficient and timely.


Your role as patient

As a patient, you now have the ability to take charge of your health. Technology has opened a door for you to communicate quickly and easily with your healthcare provider such as via text, emails and other communication platforms. This makes you more independent in managing your health.

For instance, a patient who has been diagnosed with diabetes is able to monitor his daily blood glucose reading in the comfort of his or her own home. As the doctor plays his role in empowering the patient through education, the patient will better understand the true status of his health and the importance of managing it well. With technology, the patient will be able to monitor his diabetes and weight daily and key in readings into a digital log on his tablet or smartphone. This allows both the patient and the doctor to track the patient’s progress. In fact, this useful technology now used in many countries, including Malaysia, via smartphone apps such as MyMedical™ (RM 12.94) which is available on both Android and IOS devices.

Patient empowerment is not just about the doctor playing a role in improving your health. With proper knowledge and understanding, you can play an equally important role in taking charge of your health. With technological progress, patient empowerment is encouraged as it is eases the process of keeping track of data on a daily basis and monitoring any changes that may occur. This allows you to connect with your doctor when needed and discuss the next steps that need to be taken

When you are empowered as a patient, you are assuming an active role in taking charge and navigating your way to good health. At the same time, because you are highly aware of the exact status of your health, there is a lower likelihood that you will hold yourself back from asking your doctor questions. Instead, you will feel more confident about discussing details and asking your doctor anything; motivating you to follow through with treatments and maintain a healthy lifestyle.


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