When I was in medical school, physicians used a now archaic term to describe patients who didn’t follow doctors’ orders: noncompliant. I laugh when I think about what the old time doctors meant. The patients didn’t bend to their will?
In our society, the authoritarian physician is an icon of the past. Doctors’ orders are more likely what they’re having for dinner at White Spot than what they’ve instructed their patients.
The patient-doctor relationship has evolved into collaboration. Though the physician may be an expert on matters medical, patients are experts on their own lives and the most appropriate decision-makers.
A little better is the term now in vogue for patients following through on agreed plans: adherence. But calling patients nonadherent suggests that they didn’t stick to the plan as if they broke a contract. This implies a judgment and a belief that deviance from the goal is solely the patient’s fault.
I have a better word for patients who are successfully achieving their goals: engaged. If a patient returns for a follow-up visit not having achieved a goal to eat healthier meals, quit smoking or begin an exercise program, that patient isn’t noncompliant or nonadherent. The patient is not engaged.
Patient may have become disengaged from their goals by unexpected road blocks – an injury while exercising, a family emergency or other obstacles, some unpredictable but others that may have been anticipated.
They may also become disengaged when they are not adequately prepared and supported.
They may never have been engaged in the first place if they did not choose their own goals.
The keys to successful self-care and self-improvement are personally chosen goals that matter to you, the anticipation of potential obstacles, and collaborative planning and support.
Recognizing that much of the medical information in the media (in print, online, on television and radio) is commercialized, sensationalized, biased and incomplete, the Family Doctors of Burnaby have launched a public health education program to raise health literacy.
The Empowered Patient program is designed to raise general knowledge about healthy living (proactive, preventive self-care; healthy eating; healthy relationships; and physical activity), enhancing patient-doctor relationships, and improving self-care for health in general and in the management of chronic conditions.
Our goals are to provide all members of our community with the information they need to live healthy lives, get the care they need from their healthcare providers and effectively self-manage their health. We anticipate a reduction in the burden of chronic disease in the future and envision a healthier community of empowered individuals.
On Thursday, December 18th at 7 pm, I’ll be speaking in the library of Byrne Creek Secondary School. The topic: The Patient-Doctor Relationship – Making the Most of Every Medical Visit. I’ll share some practical tips on how to work with your doctor to achieve your goals; review the key information you should know about any proposed treatment, prescription, test or procedure; outline what you should know about your medical history; and summarize important screening tests – what tests you need and when.
The presentation is sponsored by the Burnaby Division of Family Practice and is free to the public but because space is limited, register online with firstname.lastname@example.org or call Leona at (604) 259-4450.