Healthcare is continuing to undergo fundamental change as a result of new business models, developments in science and technology, and a growing emphasis on alternative or complementary therapies, according to a new report released today by Euro RSCG Worldwide, an international advertising agency.
``New technologies and genetic breakthroughs are further personalizing the healthcare process,'' said Mark Goldstone, Director of Development for Euro RSCG Healthcare, ``whether by allowing patients to monitor their medical conditions at home, providing broader access to information, or enabling doctors to tailor treatment via genetic testing.''
Among the key trends uncovered by ``The Empowered Patient'': In-home monitoring is on the rise. A new generation of monitoring technology is allowing patients to take routine medical care out of the doctor's office and into their own homes. The ability to monitor one's own condition at home becomes important not just in terms of cost savings, but also because of the greater sense of independence it affords.
``Patients who play an active role in monitoring their chronic conditions are likely to feel greater 'ownership' of the problem -- and, hence, may be more proactive in the pursuit of a solution,'' said Goldstone. ``Empowered consumers are, by definition, more involved in their own healthcare. The downside is that they will be expected to make difficult decisions and will need to have enough information to make those decisions. The benefit is that they will be able to help shape more-individual treatments with more-precise and specific courses of action.''
Web access has brought into consumers' homes not only the kind of sophisticated health information once available only in medical-school textbooks, but also increased access to information on physicians and medical facilities. Together, the thousands of health-related sites available enable people to approach their personal healthcare from a position of knowledge and increased power.
``The passive healthcare consumer is becoming a relic of the past,'' said Ann O'Reilly, author of the report and director of Euro RSCG's research service. ``To an increasing degree, individual consumers are becoming more demanding, more savvy, and less willing to accept mass-market solutions that don't fit their individual needs. This applies regardless of whether the 'product' in question is a pair of running shoes, kitchen cabinets-or a cancer treatment.''
The trend toward patient empowerment, combined with new technologies and scientific breakthroughs that permit such things as in-home monitoring and genetics-based prescriptions, ensures that traditional modes of patient care will be increasingly vulnerable to change.
For CME providers, the challenge will be to find educational offerings that prepare physicians to deal with more active--and therefore more demanding--patients. A particularly thorny issue will be dealing with patients who have either misunderstood information they've encountered outside the doctor's office or received inaccurate information.