Online access to health information has opened a new world of knowledge for patients and caregivers. Most people can now easily access educational health information online, creating an “information revolution” that has empowered healthcare consumers. Patients and caregivers can make informed choices that they didn’t previously have the medical information to make.
What are the positive effects of more informed patients?
With more information and control in the hands of the consumer, medicine has become more patient-centered. New trends have emerged, such as:
- More focus on patient satisfaction
Because patients are selecting their own providers and services, medical groups are offering additional services to improve patient satisfaction, such as supplementary patient education materials. Patient feedback is collected regularly, and patient satisfaction is an important indicator of care quality.
- “Demystification of medicine”
Now patients and their loved ones frequently learn about medical conditions online, changing the typical patient-provider conversation. Because patients have a better understanding of their conditions, they are asking more specific questions when speaking to their providers.
- More in-depth conversations between patient and provider
Patients and caregivers want more from healthcare providers than they expected in the past, including quality conversations and time to answer their questions. Today’s medical providers need to be ready to have longer, more detailed conversations with patients.
- Patients who voice their opinions and preferences
Because today’s patients are generally better informed, they are more likely to express their opinions, healthcare preferences, and lifestyle goals.
- Refined healthcare choices and new ways of delivering medicine
Patients today can control their health care in new ways. For example, patients can order some medicines and diagnostic tests online. Some medical services can come to the patient in their home. Medical providers may offer remote medical monitoring, secure online emailing, or video consultations.
While the effects of the informed consumer have been primarily positive, it is important that online information prompts patients to ask more informed questions during discussions with providers. It should not be used for self-diagnosis or self-medicating.
Ultimately, the rise in healthcare consumerism and increased access to healthcare information have resulted in more choices than ever for patients and caregivers.