Improving Patient Autonomy in Healthcare

Improving Patient Autonomy in Healthcare

In the world of healthcare, why have we made it so complicated for patients to access the care they need? The process of getting essential health services has become riddled with several steps and hurdles that patients have to navigate. It is time for us to reevaluate the way we approach healthcare and give patients more autonomy in making decisions about their health.

To receive a flu shot, patients are often required to call the medical practice or send a message through the patient portal, waiting for a response. The message then has to be reviewed, a clinical decision made, an order placed, associated with a diagnosis, signed, and finally, a reply is sent back to the patient. It is a laborious process that could be simplified.

In the past, getting a flu shot was as simple as driving through the parking lot of a local grocery store, rolling down the car window, and receiving the shot. This hassle-free approach is what we should strive for in healthcare. Routine procedures, like mammograms, should not require patients to go through the same tedious steps. We need to find a way to configure our systems so that people can easily access the care they need without unnecessary struggle.

While healthcare involves educating patients and engaging in shared medical decision-making, it is important to question whether we are trusting our patients enough. Frequently, when patients ask for a flu shot or request an order for a mammogram, the answer is almost always “yes.” Of course, there are occasional exceptions for patients with specific conditions or contraindications. However, many times, we can simplify the process by trusting the patients when they request basic healthcare services.

A significant amount of busywork in healthcare is created by the systems we have in place. By simplifying the process, we can remove barriers for patients and streamline the workload for healthcare providers. For example, electronic medical records have made requesting medication refills through patient portals simple. If certain criteria are met, like recent visits, blood pressure checks, or required monitoring, the system can automatically process the refill request and send it to the requested pharmacy for the doctor’s approval. By configuring more aspects of healthcare to work seamlessly like this, we can create a better healthcare experience for everyone involved.

In the future, advancements in technology and artificial intelligence could automate many aspects of patient care. Patients could have access to medical education materials and AI systems that could guide them in making informed decisions about their health. These systems could help with ongoing care, medication management, monitoring vital signs, and even initiate the workup of new clinical issues. Implementing smarter systems to facilitate healthcare could help eliminate inequities and ensure that all patients receive the care they need.

Making the healthcare system more patient-centric and streamlined should be a priority. By simplifying access to care, enabling shared decision-making, and leveraging technology, we can improve patient autonomy and satisfaction. It is essential to eliminate unnecessary steps and bureaucratic processes that hinder patients from receiving timely care. Let us strive for a healthcare system that is efficient, patient-focused, and as easy to navigate as possible.


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