Written by Blaise O’Malley, MPH
Research has shown that patients, in general, want to be an active participant in making treatment decisions. By having a say in their healthcare experience, they feel empowered and more engaged in the process. This is important, as patient empowerment has been connected to increased self-confidence, improved adherence to self-management of treatment, better health outcomes, and greater patient satisfaction. However, in order to make healthcare decisions they can feel good about, patients first need to be fully informed about their options. Health education therefore plays a key role in healthcare decision making and patient empowerment.
Ensuring that patients receive proper health education can be difficult for time-constrained healthcare professionals; luckily, there are many tools that can help. One such tool, which has become increasingly popular in healthcare over the past decade or so, is the patient decision aid. Decision aids are support tools that present all possible options regarding a treatment decision and provide important information about each, including possible benefits, risks, and side effects. The IMD patient education platform offers a variety of decision aids to support patients in being more confident throughout their treatment journey. Decision aids are often displayed in a chart or table to allow for easy comparison. For example, a fertility decision aid for a breast cancer patient might include information about embryo freezing, egg freezing, ovarian suppression, and a “wait and see” approach.
A decision aid can elicit feelings of empowerment for the patient because it not only lets them know that they have options, it also gives them all the pertinent information regarding what those options entail. They can then use that information to consider which option would suit them best and discuss it with their doctor before coming to a decision, allowing for a more collaborative interaction between the patient and provider. This process, often referred to as “shared decision making,” can contribute to more equitable healthcare, as it provides patients with the opportunity to self-advocate and contributes to an individualized, patient-centered healthcare experience. It can also provide patients with the right language to use so they can effectively express their wants and needs to their healthcare team.
Other educational resources can help patients feel informed and empowered as well. Brochures, infographics, videos, and books can all provide helpful information about disease states or medical procedures. Patients can then use the knowledge they gain from these materials to feel confident about their treatment options and aware of what’s to come in their healthcare journey. Resources are often particularly helpful when they include visuals, as this can help with health literacy.
If you are interested in helping your patients feel empowered but you don’t know where to start, healthcare professionals can create an account to access media-rich resources on the IMD’s patient education platform – sign up here, today. There, you can find decision aids, workbooks, guides, and more that will enable your patient to feel as informed as possible.
Bailo, L., Guiddi, P., Vergani, L., Marton, G., & Pravettoni, G. (2019). The patient perspective: Investigating patient empowerment enablers and barriers within the oncological care process. Ecancermedicalscience, 13, 912. https://doi.org/10.3332/ecancer.2019.912
Barr, P. J., Scholl, I., Bravo, P., Faber, M. J., Elwyn, G., & McAllister, M. (2015). Assessment of Patient Empowerment – A systematic review of measures. PLOS ONE, 10(5), e0126553. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0126553
Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin. (2013). An introduction to patient decision aids. BMJ, 347. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.f4147
Vainauskienė, V., & Vaitkienė, R. (2021). Enablers of patient knowledge empowerment for self-management of chronic disease: An integrative review. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(5), 2247. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18052247