It has only been a couple of decades since the concept of patient-centered care or patient centricity entered our collective consciousness. However, much has changed and continues to change rapidly in the healthcare industry. Technological, economic, and social advancements are moving at break-neck speed and propelling the industry into ever evolving directions.
We could already be moving beyond patient-centered care and into what some are terming “collaborative health”. Michael Millenson, President of Health Quality Advisors, stated in a recent essay, “It’s not that patient centeredness no longer pertains; rather,” he says, “it’s being subsumed under these larger forces reshaping 21st-century medicine.” As a result, he says, “I suggest ‘collaborative health’ as an umbrella term framing how clinicians should respond.”
What does collaborative health mean? Basically, it involves patients interacting on their health issues with more and more entities. They will collaborate not only with doctors but also health plans, employers, online patient networks, wearable devices, and even corporations.
One example we discussed in a previous blog is the site PatientsLikeMe, an online patient network. This is an online space where patients can share symptoms, treatment info, and health outcomes. PatientsLikeMe then aggregates that data and then shares what insights they have learned with the patient community as well as the healthcare industry.
Even the typical “search of the web” for disease information is changing. Healthcare websites are becoming increasingly interactive and personalized. While the information on these sites isn’t perfect, it is getting more and more reliable.
This kind of paradigm shift may leave healthcare organizations uneasy. Despite all the talk of patient centricity, the industry remains fairly provider-centric. The advice from Michael Milenson is for healthcare providers to act less like a hub and more like any other participant in this shift. These organizations’ leaders need to start preparing their institutions for this inevitable cultural change.
Michael Milenson is dead on in his assessment of the direction in which healthcare needs to move. And while he is correct in the idea that providers need to move the focus off themselves, it will never happen unless one group steps up: the patients. Even with the best of intentions, healthcare providers can’t force patients to interact with all the various players in their healthcare ecosystem. Technology has given patients the power to engage in ‘collaborative health’. They can really take control of their own well-being. As long as providers are willing to step aside to let the patients put themselves front and center, we should be seeing an exciting change in healthcare that should only keep getting better.