Christensen/Hwang: “Power to the Patients” (The Atlantic)

hwangchristensen“While other industries take as their focus such shallow concerns as the making of money, the health care profession prides itself on dealing with matters of life and death. But that’s not the only thing distinguishing health care from other industries: it is also unique in the extent to which it excludes consumers from important decisions.”

That’s the opening of Power to the Patients, a new article published today in The Atlantic, by Clayton Christensen and Jason Hwang MD, authors of The Innovator’s Prescription. They continue with a refrain that’s all too familiar to readers of this blog:

Bring your own health research to the doctor’s office, and you might be labeled a nuisance patient. Question your doctor’s recommendations, and you could be called noncompliant or difficult.

The second paragraph says

Doctors and patients alike are accustomed to the firmly entrenched Doctor Knows Best status quo. But it is only by empowering patients – entrusting them with greater responsibility and putting opportunities for self-directed care into their hands – that health care can be made significantly more efficient and effective. It’s a bit late, of course, to work patient empowerment into the various proposals now wending their way through Congress. But anything that can be called true reform may be impossible without it.

Well, heck, I could paste in the whole thing – it’s brief and to the point. I didn’t say it, they did. Go read it. I will say, they end with this call to action:

Surely if more patients realized how much influence they could have in their own care, they would discard their roles as passive health care consumers, and would instead become its agents of change.

Go read it.

(If you’ve been living under a rock for the past ten years regarding technology, Christensen revolutionized world thinking about innovation with this “disruptive innovation” framework, which identified the underlying dynamics that explain why certain innovations succeed in overthrowing industry leaders. Ignore this book at your peril.)

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7 Responses to “Christensen/Hwang: “Power to the Patients” (The Atlantic)”

  1. ePatientDave says:

    What a way to start #HCSFBay: New Christensen/Hwang article "Power to the Patients"! e-patients.net: http://is.gd/3YyUE

  2. Thanks, Dave, for posting this!

    I want to quote the last paragraph of the article, because that has been my main beef with the so-called healthcare reform dialogue:


    So far, there’s no general patient lobby that receives the same attention, or possesses the same financial resources, as the American Medical Association and American Hospital Association. But surely if more patients realized how much influence they could have in their own care, they would discard their roles as passive health care consumers, and would instead become its agents of change.

    This is really a fundamental point! If we, the patients, are the only stakeholder without highly paid lobbyists we should not expect anything good to come out of the reform effort. The lack of acknowledgment of the potential for positive transformation offered by the growing number of e-patients just confirms that what is taking place in Washington is just payment reform, and not at all reform of the healthcare system.

  3. Holly Potter says:

    RT @ePatientDave: What a way to start #HCSFBay: New Christensen/Hwang article – Power to the Patients – e-patients.net: http://is.gd/3YyUE

  4. I agree that healthcare reform=patient reform; we shouldn’t hold our breath waiting for government programs that “fix” healthcare. It would make sense, I think, to create an organization that will lobby in behalf of patients, though that’s a challenge because patients have diverse interests and won’t always agree which policy serves them best.

    A good first step might be to identify which policies already exist that work against patients’ interests, and propose alternatives.

  5. RT @ePatientDave What a way to start #HCSFBay: New Christensen/Hwang article: Power to the Patients http://is.gd/3YyUE

  6. Ed Baker, MD says:

    I wholehertedly agree. Just be careful who you put your trust in. I have had patients bring me information and records they have been fradulently sold and have no ability or training to review or digest. There are companies out there preying on patients’ (e.g., MedeFile) and there are no ways to keep a lid on this.

    At least the AMA is working to improve the clinical quality of healthcare. Find yourself a good physician that is willing to work with you and listen to you (really listen, not just give you 10 min at a time) and any input you bring will be considered and discussed.

  7. ePatientDave says:

    @rsholman Thanks, Bob. But dude, do you not yet subscribe to e-patients.net?? You're late :) …http://is.gd/4swo2

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