The Lancet Journal recently published an article about the ENOPE conference, detailing some of the key discussion points.
ENOPE organiser Ilona Kickbusch described patient empowerment as "a process to help people gain control, which includes people taking the initiative, solving problems, and making decisions, and can be applied to different settings in health and social care, and self management”
It summed up the issue with the traditional paternalistic model very well - it "creates dependency". The NHS and healthcare providers across the world can not cope if all long-term condition patients become dependent on their services. Independency creates a plethora of positive emotions and is more sustainable as a patient model.
The conference highlighted the main topics as health literacy, chronic disease self-management, and the role of technology. These sum up patient empowerment very well!
As with any scheme, reaching the people who need it the most is always a challenge - something that was acknowledged in Copenhagen. "The reality is that doctors have limited consultation time and resources, and not all patients can, or want to be empowered." Robert Johnstone (of the International Association of Patients Organisation) says that “doctors should get down from their pedestals, but patients must get up from their knees.” Yet he adds: “empowerment is not about trying to wrest power from the doctors, it is essentially helping people lead more proactive and fulfilling lives.” I think that is a very important distinction to make, and possibly critical in getting doctors on-board!
"Although [patient empowerment] will never substitute professional acute care, by learning to self manage, people with chronic diseases are more likely to remain integrated into society and the workforce." Again another very important point, clearly stating the areas that could benefit from patient empowerment.
The article ended on this; "starting a dialogue directly with medical professionals on patient empowerment seems the critical next step" which I agree with. I think there is ample evidence on-line of patients ready to become empowered, but that change needs to be facilitated by willing clinicians!