The nation’s 65-and-older population is growing every year, from 35 million in 2000 to 53 million in 2020. As this “baby boomer” generation reaches the age where chronic diseases become more prevalent, many medical providers have wondered how it will change the healthcare landscape. Baby boomers bring a high level of consumer savvy and familiarity with technology to the healthcare system, and with that comes higher expectations for providers and increased awareness of their own health issues. The influx of these people into chronic care management is likely to accelerate the movement of self-care, patient education, and whole person wellness, which stands to have a significant impact on the previously accepted state of the doctor-patient relationship.
Traditional views regard physicians and other health professionals as the exalted experts, with patients bringing little to the table aside from their illness. However, new, emerging chronic care models believe that optimum chronic care is achieved when a prepared, proactive practice team interacts with an informed, engaged patient. People with chronic conditions are taking charge and consider themselves their own principal caregivers. After all, they do spend considerably more time with the patient than any health care practitioner. Health care professionals, both in primary and specialty care, would be wise to consider themselves as expert consultants, supporting the patient in their role of full-time caregiver to themselves.
The ideal outcome of this new model would be a plan involving collaborative care and self-management education. Collaborative care is a term for when the physicians and patients make healthcare decisions together, rather than the practitioner dictating all aspects of treatment. Self-management education provides patients with problem solving skills to enhance their daily lives.
According to the National Institutes of Health, patients tend to immediately forget 40 to 80 percent of the information their doctor shares with them during a visit. Particularly when the news is bad, negative test results or labs that may deliver unforeseen complications, the patient may not be able to take in the details. Being able to provide patients with written, searchable reference materials about next steps and ways to manage their condition, symptoms, treatment and medications after they leave the doctor’s office is crucial.
Patients with chronic conditions must make day-to-day decisions about their care at home, on the fly, without the input of their medical team. Because of this, it is critical that they are well equipped with the information they need to make these choices in an informed way. When patients have the knowledge and tools to succeed in solving their own immediate health issues, they save both their doctors and themselves time and reduce overall costs as well as feel more confident and engaged in their outcome.
Self management education for chronic illness may soon become an integral part of high-quality primary care. At Emerald Coast Medical Association, we believe in the power of education. We strive to educate our members so they can take that education to their patients and become the expert consultant their patients want to have as a partner. If you would like to learn more about the benefits of membership or learn how you can attend a trial monthly meeting before joining, click on the link below.