Patients take control of their health

Éthique | 21 Jun 2010
The times when patients passively waited for their doctor’s diagnosis are long gone. Thanks to new technology that offers easy access to sources of information, more and more individuals are developing a keen interest in their health, and want to be more involved in the treatment process. These major changes are inspiring government health policy to reposition patients at the heart of the care system. 
 
Patient with his doctorWhile waiting for medical expertise, it is far from uncommon for patients today to find out about the care and treatment options available. Internet use is now widespread, and health issues are one of the most popular topics for web users. With just a few clicks, the general public can visit sites and forums to find out more about medication, symptoms and more, with the aim of fully understanding their condition and playing a more active role in their recovery. “The patient, contrary to the etymology of the term, which suggests passivity and being the object of treatment, is starting to play an active role,” highlighted French minister for health and sport Roselyne Bachelot during a speech on 2 September 2008 at the launch of the report entitled Mission éducation thérapeutique du patient (“patient treatment education”). 
 

Facilitating patient access to health records

Bachelot therefore recognized this new mindset when drawing up the HPST (a law on hospital reform and on patients, healthcare and the region) and developing projects that allow patients to access information concerning their health. The relaunch of the electronic health record (DMP) is an excellent example of this objective, as it places patients’ medical records under their own control, while making the information available to healthcare professionals who require it. The latter can view an individual’s precise medical history, once the patient consents to it, and see corresponding reports. Patients meanwhile, can access their health data immediately. “Access to medical records is a right. With the DMP, this right will become a reality,” underlined Bachelot when visiting the Georges Pompidou European Hospital on 23 June 2008. 
 

With the DMP, patients play a key role in healthcare

The DMP means an environment can be established to share and exchange medical data, so as to facilitate cooperation between healthcare professionals. As they are better informed and more involved in their care, patients are able to better follow their treatment. 
 
A number of service projects are currently being looked at in order to improve people’s everyday lives. These include automatic reminders for vaccines, screenings, and examinations, so as to prevent the development of complications, and self-monitoring promotions (such as for diabetics’ blood sugar level). 
 

The importance of treatment education in the HPST

Treatment education means patients can better control their own health.
Placed at the heart of the healthcare system, these individuals no longer passively undergo treatment, but understand the objectives and help ensure its effectiveness. This is achieved by remaining vigilant and properly following instructions.
“By offering patients greater autonomy, through teaching them information and skills that let them improve their quality of life, treatment education plays an important role in what is a key objective of an ambitious and innovative health policy,” commented Bachelot on 2 September 2008 when publishing the report on patient treatment education.