Buying a car is easy. We’ve got abundant data right at our fingertips on every model and every option, financing, and dealer incentives. As consumers, we’re in control and in the know.
This is my dream for healthcare, too: a world where patients have the same level of choice and confidence, and everything they need to make smart decisions and restore their health.
Yet making that dream a reality means big changes in the relationship that most healthcare providers have with their patients. It means embracing patients as full partners in their own health. For patients, expect more education and a little more time spent learning about your body and how it works.
As a starting point, I propose the following “Patient Bill of Rights” — what I believe every patient has the right to expect from every healthcare provider.
The Patient Bill of Rights
You have the right to:
1. Fully understand your diagnosis and how it will affect you now and in the future.
Too many providers hurry through explanations and dismiss questions. Providing respectful, easily understood explanations for patients is the first step towards changing healthcare for the better.
2. Select treatment that’s right for your diagnosis, your life and your budget
You and your provider should decide together what’s right for you, based on your lifestyle, your goals and your priorities, not just your diagnosis or your provider’s preferences. When treatment options exist, providers should not take a “one size fits all” approach that ignores this key principle.
3. Understand every part of your treatment plan and discuss all of your concerns
For example, you may wonder whether a different approach would reduce possible complications or avoid the need for lifelong medications. Your healthcare provider should take these concerns seriously.
4. Understand how long your treatment plan will take
Understanding the timeline for your treatment is part of making sure it’s right for you. It’s also essential to know whether this plan is expected to fully restore your health or simply improve certain symptoms.
5. Know who will provide each element of your care
The provider you trust to make your diagnosis and develop your treatment plan may or may not be solely responsible for providing treatment. It’s important to know who’s responsible for what and feel confident that each provider is communicating with each other to provide an integrated experience.
6. A realistic estimate of the cost of your care
Ironically, a major reason for health-related stress is concern over who will pay for your treatment, and what specifically will be paid for. Providers must be open to all treatment options if the cost of the proposed plan is an obstacle to health.
7. Trust that your investment of time, mindshare and money will achieve your personal health goals
Taking action to improve your health is a real commitment. Providers owe patients the information and attention to justify their confidence that this investment will be worthwhile.
I like to say that “My head’s in the clouds, but my feet are on the ground.” Yes, these are big goals, but we can achieve every one of them if we commit to treating patients with respect, as true partners in their health.
People considering complicated yet mundane decisions like a car purchase are well-informed, understand their options, and can get plenty of help to make the decision that’s right for them.
Surely we can do even better for something as complex and important as your health.