05 Apr Who is Responsible – Patient or Provider?
I always inform new patients about the personal philosophy that guides my practice as a family nurse practitioner in primary care and determines how I approach patients, families, and health. Revealing this early helps patients decide whether I might be the right health professional to manage their unique health care needs. When I firmly state, “I am not responsible for your health, you are!” many will stare open-mouthed and ask, “But you are the medical person so how can I be the one responsible?” I reply, “I am not with you 24/7 so how can I be responsible for the behaviors and practices that contribute to your overall health and well-being?” This I-Youexchange can be confusing. Patients are often under the misconception that the health care professional has control when in reality they are in control, especially if they are living in the community and make their own decisions about other aspects of their lives. I go on to stress that I am a partner, and my responsibility is to help them acquire the knowledge, skills, and confidence they need to manage their health to the best of their ability.
In Using Open Innovation to Reinvent Primary Care, the fifth recommendation from the Hope Street Group addresses empowering the consumer to take personal responsibility for improving their health. Several strategies suggested to achieve this are more global than interactions in individual provider-patient relationships. One reason I left critical care nursing and became an advanced practice nurse in primary care was to work with patients who had the capacity, ability, and power to be active participants in the decision-making process concerning individual and family health and the care received.
Many chronic health conditions affecting Americans are related to lifestyle behaviors and choices. Empowering patients to take personal responsibility begins with the provider relinquishing their perceived control and giving the patient that authority.