Chronic diseases account for an estimated 86% of deaths and 77% of the disease burden in the European Region, as measured by disability-adjusted life years (WHO 2009).
People who live with long term conditions tell us that it is not the conditions that are their main problem, it is the impact that those conditions have on their lives.
The problem is not just health, it is wellbeing.
This has brought about a fundamental shift in health systems and healthcare, which has lead to a transformation in the relationships, roles and responsibilities of patients and healthcare providers.
There is a stronger focus on patient responsibilities and their own role in managing their health and setting their desired goals and outcomes.
Empowerment enables individuals, services, professionals and communities working together to co-produce solutions and services. In practice it means acknowledging that everyone is an expert in their own life, everyone has something to contribute, and that enabling people to support each other builds strong, resilient communities.
Growing evidence shows that engaging patients and their Carers in setting their own care goals, enabling them to actively monitor and manage their condition creates better outcomes for patients AND decreased costs for the healthcare system.
The European Patients Forum, as part of their campaign on Patient Empowerment, identified 5 main areas to support empowerment:
Patients can make informed decisions about their health if they are able to access all the relevant information, in an easily understandable format.
Patients self-manage their condition every day so they have a unique expertise on healthcare which needs to be supported.
Patients need support to become equal partners with health professionals in the management of their condition.
Individual patients work with patient organisations to represent them, and channel their experience and collective voice.
Patients need to be involved in designing more effective healthcare for all, and in research to deliver new and better treatments and services.
Redesigning and commissioning health care services on these principles not only appears to be the right thing to do, but it also has significant benefits in terms of:
- Reduced health care costs and improved waiting times
- Wider societal benefits around employment, increased community cohesion and safety
- Reductions in preventable and early mortality
- Reductions in obesity and lifestyle related issues
- Improved outcomes for patients