Making the promise of the empowered patient a reality

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FHI editorial team

Nov 27, 2019 - reading time 6 mins


The Philips Future Health Index editorial team is always on the look-out for great content pieces that discuss the future of health, selecting the most interesting health-related stories for you to read.

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Individuals are rewriting the rules of healthcare. Whether they are tracking their sleep patterns via a wearable device, discovering secrets of their ancestry through DNA kits or turning to online services to find out about potential conditions, it’s clear that the traditional healthcare interaction – where the healthcare professional would give their diagnosis to a mostly uninformed patient – has changed.

Making the promise of the empowered patient a reality

According to the Future Health Index 2019 report, these trends may improve patients’ experiences of healthcare. Giving an individual access to their own healthcare data actually makes them more likely to report positive personal experiences in healthcare – 82% of the general population who have access to their digital health record (DHR), for example, rate their experience of the care they receive as good, very good or excellent, compared with 66% of those that don’t have access. 


With these increasingly empowered patients changing the game, what has to happen if healthcare systems are to harness the benefits? We asked three leading experts from different parts of healthcare for their take. 

Rafael Bengoa – Co-Director, SI-Health; Vice Chairman of Advisory Group Horizon 20/20

"Tracking and sharing data can allow patients to have more informed conversations with their healthcare professionals and will allow planners to better manage population health"

“In the Basque region, where we first developed a DHR in 2010, we’re not seeing enough patients get the full benefits from the DHR at the moment. Only about 30% of patients are using it, so it needs to be more personalized in order for patients to become active and self-managed. The DHR should be the patient’s day-to-day source of healthcare information. 


“The trend towards patient empowerment is important because tracking data can mean that they’re taken more seriously by healthcare professionals. If a patient tracks his or her sleep or pain regularly, for example, then they can bring that information to their appointment and have an intelligent conversation with their physician, rather than simply coming in and saying that they’re having trouble sleeping or are in pain. 


“In most countries, the trend is to move to population health, where a team proactively and preventatively addresses the health needs of a population in a region. By using personalized tracking information, they can stratify and help specific vulnerable groups. In this sense, these approaches reinforce equity.”

Nancy Brown – CEO, American Heart Association

"The patient must come first in every innovation or technology"

“Ultimately, the data belongs to the patient – the data is not a piece of paper, it’s a person’s body. The more the patient knows, understands and cares, the more engaged they’ll be in their healthcare. Technology should be used to help remove the barriers to patients achieving their health goals. 


“Patients want access, communication and reassurance – the human side of healthcare. But when we as an industry are speaking to each other we frequently use terminology that patients don’t understand, like ‘AI’ or ‘clinical workflow’. Rarely are patients even mentioned. We need to flip this script so that patients are the first priority in our conversations on technology and innovation. 


“We need to ask ourselves how the patient is going to actually use this new AI-enabled tool. When you think about it from that angle, you’ll uncover very real barriers that many people have to accessing this form of care. These challenges must be solved first. This isn’t the sexy stuff – but these barriers are very important to figure out.” 

Christoph Wald – Chairman, Department of Radiology at Lahey Hospital & Medical Center; Professor of Radiology, Tufts University Medical School

"Remote consultations for non-urgent care can give patients more control over both their lives and their health"

“A patient’s healthcare ‘visit’ starts when they leave their house. If it’s in the rush hour, travel could easily take an hour. The check-in could be cumbersome. Then the patient sits in a waiting area to be called. Only then do they have the interaction that the physician is aware of, and then maybe they’re going to the pharmacy to pick up items. Then you travel home or on to work. This can add up to as much as three hours. Ultimately, only 10%-20% of this overall investment of time and effort may be spent with healthcare-focused activity that adds value, creating great inefficiency for patients.


“There are tremendous opportunities for digital health technology to streamline all this. Self-scheduling needs to happen. Converting a physical visit into a telehealth visit – where medically appropriate - has profound benefits for the patient. The increasing presence of mobile devices capable of secure audio and video streaming, combined with faster wireless technology, enable this interaction on consumer devices. Often, a call and some advice is enough. And if it’s not, the physician can then schedule a physical appointment. But you’ve turned the three-hour engagement into a 15-minute affair. Payers recognize the value of this abbreviated interaction in a lower cost environment and, over time, are expected to establish payment tailored to remote consultation.” 

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