3 Ways Patients Are Changing the Treatment Realm

We are in the midst of a paradigm shift. The ways in which healthcare is being delivered and received in the West are changing. Now the patients, together with their practitioners, are driving new agendas of treatment and care based on their own needs and decision-making processes. While the basic dyad of healthcare experiences between patient and physician has remained unchanged, the speed, quality, and nature of these interactions has adapted to reflect the social and cultural shifts in patient attitude and approach.

Below are three ways in which patients are implicitly and explicitly shifting the nature of healthcare and consequently driving a new kind of experience forward.

  1. Collaboration  

While the treatment experience has often been euphemistically described as a collaborative process, it wasn’t until recently that collaboration took a more definite and concrete form. In the past, physicians and other practitioners saw themselves “working with” their patients, in the sense of harnessing patient consent and encouraging a positive attitude for treatment as a means of ensuring compliance. However, over the past few decades, power has shifted away from doctors and moved towards patients – a shift that has only been hastened and amplified by the vast amount of information that sick people and their care partners now have access to via technology. As a result, treatment has taken on new forms as patients are coming to expect higher levels of collaboration with their healthcare practitioners in the decision-making process. This expectation of collaboration signals to both a democratization of the healthcare experience and the adoption of a consumer mentality. In either circumstance, authentic collaboration between practitioner and patient will mark future health interactions where co-creation of care is central.

  1. Parallel Practitioners or Treatment Multiplicity

Although holistic therapies are still referred to as “alternative medicine,” there is no doubt that these approaches have increasingly taken on a greater and more centralized place in the spectrum of healthcare options. Previously dismissed by biomedical practitioners before eventually becoming accepted, alternative or holistic therapies will be increasingly expected to become part of the overall treatment paradigm in the coming years. To this end, massage therapists, osteopaths, naturopathic doctors, and homeopaths will increasingly work alongside biomedical practitioners both literally and metaphorically. This will kick off significant changes in health infrastructure, education, and treatment management on the part of biomedical systems and practitioners – a process that will adjust to the realignment of traditional centers and peripheries of healthcare. While it seems apparent that physicians will continue to play a leading role in treatment, those with acute and, especially, chronic illnesses will increasingly expect their practitioners to incorporate and work with a series of parallel practitioners within an environment of treatment multiplicity.

  1. Coordination of Care  

The prioritization of care coordination – already an issue of importance among leading healthcare facilities and practitioners – will continue to quickly gain momentum. An aging population, along with the rise of chronic illness and the added complexity of multimorbidity, means that patients and their families will increasingly demand better care coordination between the spectrum of practitioners that they see. Care coordination will not simply mean better logistical management of patients through the system – the coordination of multiple appointments on a single day, for example – but also more integrated approaches to things like medication management and information sharing. Care coordination, even in its most mundane iterations, benefits everyone in tangible and meaningful ways. But increasingly, and perhaps unsurprisingly, it also appears that better coordination of care improves health outcomes. That said, as patients’ interactions with the system become more complex, coordination of care will become a key element in the overall assessment of good treatment and empathetic care.  

Photo: NEC Corporation of America

the author

Dr. Marc Lafleur

Dr. Marc Lafleur is VP, medical anthropology at Idea Couture. See his full bio here.