Patient involvement across Europe

On the 21st of May the Eurobarometer qualitative survey was published, assessing the involvement and relationship between patients and health care professionals in 15 European countries.

What is patient involvement? One of the results of the study was that both patients and health staff are not aware what the concept means:

For both practitioners and patients it was often simply equated with medical compliance and following doctors’ orders (Eurobarometer, 2012).

But doesn’t patient involvement symbolise an active dialogue between patients and health care professionals and an open form of communication and the exchange of information and feedback from both sides?

The Eurobarometer survey found that choice was one key aspect of patient involvement for some patients, being able to change doctors and being aware of alternate treatments. From a practitioners point of view the benefits of ‘patient involvement” as having more motivated and engaged patients, with increased understanding.

So what are the benefits of patient involvement and what can be done to improve it? The active involvement of patients and an open communication can lead to better diagnosis and treatment options, when e.g. symptoms, side effects or lifestyle factors are discussed between the patient and physician, thus benefiting both. Patient involvement also indicates the monitoring of symptoms, side and/or treatment effects, which is already done by many chronic disease patients e.g. having diabetes. The internet also contributed to increasing patient involvement within the last ten years, since information about symptoms, potential diagnosis and treatment options are searched and presented to the doctor for discussion.

The wish to be involved as an individual varies between the age groups patients with a higher level of education, patients with chronic conditions, and younger or middle-aged patients wanted (and often expected) more involvement, as discovered in the Eurobarometer survey.

One example of patient involvement is the TEDx of Lucien Engelen at this year’s conference on Future of Health, 2nd April 2012 in Maastricht. Lucien talks about his initiative, incorporating patients in health conferences, to involve and empower them. In his talk he also introduces Jip Keijzer, who talks about his journey of battling cancer and the AYA platform of the Radboud Hospital in Nijmegen, bringing patients and doctors together. The doctor mostly sticks to the scientific facts but for the patient having a disease and being treated, so much more plays a role and has impact on his well being.

Involving and empowering patients benefits all involved parties and the society as a whole.

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