The public, armed with useful non-jargon information, is rightly demanding a say in how healthcare is organised and delivered. Historically the patient has been expected to follow blindly the doctor’s advice with little input or participation in his/her treatment. The ability of patients to act as consumers and therefore participate in their own treatment has been severely hampered by medical secrecy and arrogance. The patient, on the whole, was not seen as having the training or intellect to understand complex medical issues and was therefore treated as a passenger and not a participant in their treatment. This lack of participation by the patient was caused in large part by a lack of appropriate information on which to make informed decisions.
The almost universal access to the internet has turned a bright light into what had been relatively dark corners. Patients, armed with useful non-jargon information, are becoming consumers of healthcare. They are insisting on doctors being measured, the publishing of meaningful outcome data, and access to healthcare based on their needs and not services based around what the health workers want.
Patients need to have a platform from which to make informed decisions and demand that they are participants and not passengers in their treatment. They can begin to measure around data points that are meaningful to them the quality of the treatment they receive and, most importantly, begin to shape the health service from a patient’s and not an employee perspective.
In France, (where the health system frequently ranks at the top of the World Health Organisation’s best providers) 40 per cent of health provision is supplied by the private sector. The French enjoy choice, clean hospitals and friendly staff, not to mention some of the highest quality outcomes in the world. France has embraced an agnostic system where providers are chosen and survive based on ability and quality of outcomes and not idealism.
For too long, patients have been allowed to suffer while high-level discussions take place around the politics of health. France and others have proven that the discussion must centre around the patient and their needs. Most importantly, the patient must be at the centre of that debate and not be kept on its periphery.
The above is the opinion of Ken Anderson, former commercial director general, Department of Health, UK. He is singing my song. The best and the most efficient health systems in other countries are based on universal provision where the money follows the patient. With further health cuts promised in the present economic downturn, we have never been more in need of new leadership and a new direction for our health service.
Source: Irish Times online.