'E' is for Equipped, Enabled, Empowered, & Engaged

Written By Colleen Young

Have you heard the term “e-patient”? You may be quick to assume ‘e’ means electronic, but it doesn’t necessarily. In this case ‘e’ stands for being equipped, enabled, empowered and engaged in health and healthcare decisions. I would also add that it stands for equal – as in being an equal partner in your care.

Image of a drawing depicting a Consumer Engagement Atlas
Photo by Regina Holliday via flickr Creative Commons

Cancer survivor Dave deBronkart once said, “ushering in the era of the participatory patient doesn’t mean that ‘doctor knows best’ has shifted to ‘patient knows best’. The new patient-doctor relationship is a collaborative partnership.”

Gone are the days when the doctor was the only source of medical information and care. Patients and family caregivers know the value of information and knowledge that they gain through their health and wellness experiences and from the information they get from each other.

Patients no longer want to receive health care passively. They want easy access to information and to their medical records, and they want to connect and collaborate with their peers. So this is where ‘e’ for electronic may come into the definition for some people. Online information, tools that organize health data (electronic apps) and social networking tools (discussion forums, blogs, wikis, Facebook, Twitter) are letting us do this in ways never before possible.

And, health-care providers are beginning to understand that patient knowledge counts. The authors of the paper e-Patients: How they can help us heal healthcare acknowledged that healthcare providers

  • should recognize that patients and families are valuable contributors to health care. 
  • have overestimated the hazards of imperfect online health information. Patients are capable of gathering quality health information online. 
  • have underestimated patients’ ability to provide useful online resources. 
  • can no longer go it alone. The most effective way to improve health care is to make it more collaborative.

Together we can build confidence in a cooperative model of health care that embraces the active involvement of patients, caregivers, families and healthcare providers. This, I believe, will not only help improve the health of each of us, but also the health of our communities and the quality of our healthcare system.