Understanding the Patient-Doctor Relationship

By Dan Bobear (@dbobear)

Chris Schroeder, CEO of HealthCentral, loves what he calls “empowered patients”. He spoke about them at this year’s DTC conference this spring, and wrote about them in an article in DTC Perspectives this month.

So what are empowered patients? They’re proactive, they’re curious, they’re confident, they’re demanding, and they’re very loyal when they get good care. This isn’t surprising – it’s probably how you would have described an empowered patient yourself.

And yes, they’re the ones who annoy some doctors with their barrage of questions and suggestions. But more often than not, that’s when they’re coming with only some information, which is often overly promotional in nature – like in this LA Times story. When they’re properly educated, they can be a wonderful resource for those around them.

The surprising thing is, according to the research that Schroeder undertook with HealthCentral and DTC Perspectives, these empowered patients are not an elite few. In fact, only about one in five patients is unlikely to become empowered. When it comes down to it, most everyone wants to be in control of his or her own health.

Because these patients don’t take the care offered to them passively, they’re a tremendously important outlet for DTC interactions. They’ll give you feedback and constructive criticism. They’ll act on the steps you offer them. And, of course, empowered patients communicate.

This naturally means they’re social-media savvy.

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That’s immediately frightening to your legal departments, of course. We don’t like these patients! They answer back and that is scary!

Well, maybe it is – when you dump an ill-conceived program on them. But…

What if you get a few on your side when you’re still in the developmental stages?

What if you reach out to some of what Schroeder calls the “near-empowered” patients – and help them empower themselves?

That’s when you can win raving fans. And that’s when your work can really make a difference.

Consider the impact of a good program when you have empowered patients on your side. And now, design for them. Don’t let them intimidate you – really, it isn’t that hard. These are the patients that we all, as active participants educated in the industry, try to be!

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