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Patient empowerment is critical in modern healthcare practice

 County Executive Committee Member for Health Dr Benard Wesonga serves a patient at Kakamega Referral Hospital when doctors stage a nation wide strike over their CBA. [File, Standard]

In medical practice, the patient is the most important person around whom the effectiveness and success of any healthcare institution is measured. As Kenya moves to implement the universal health coverage development pillar, sound patient care should be one of its success indicators. 

Patient care ensures that the patient is kept happy and comfortable with their overall welfare taking centre stage. Treating patients with dignity and care while maintaining their privacy is one of the hallmarks of a sustainable healthcare system. Experts concur that the medical profession’s role is much more than treating illnesses. It encompasses enhancing patient care that improves the quality of life for the sick persons.

Patient care is the cardinal responsibility of medical practitioners who are obligated to ensure that the patient is given the best possible care. However, in today’s vibrant healthcare landscape, it is crucial for us to stay vigilant and attuned to the ever-evolving trends. The rapid accessibility of information via the internet has both informed and misled patients, often due to the complexity of medical terminologies. This makes it imperative for us, as healthcare leaders, to move from patient care and start championing patient empowerment.

Patient empowerment is essential in ensuring patients have greater control, influence and responsibility over their health decisions. It involves equipping them with the necessary knowledge, skills and confidence to actively participate in their healthcare.

To achieve this, we must provide patients with accurate, comprehensive and relevant information about their health conditions, treatment and the dynamics of the post-treatment phase. Health literacy is paramount, enabling patients to understand and use health information effectively.

Encouraging active patient participation in decision-making is vital. This involves a collaborative approach between patients and healthcare providers, respecting and incorporating patients' preferences and values into their care plans.

Recognising that illness can be daunting, we must support patients in developing confidence to manage their health. This can be achieved through education, skills training and robust support systems that enhance self-efficacy consistent with the government’s universal health coverage national development goal of attaining equitable, affordable, accessible and quality health care for all.

A key aspect of patient empowerment in the contemporary healthcare space is self-management. We need to provide patients with the tools, resources and support necessary to manage their health conditions independently. This includes teaching them how to monitor symptoms, adhere to treatment plans and make necessary lifestyle changes.

Effective communication is the cornerstone of addressing healthcare issues and empowering patients. As healthcare players, we must encourage patients to ask questions, express concerns and actively participate in discussions about their care as an exemplification of unwavering commitment to quality care and support for our patients.

Moreover, it is crucial to uphold patients' rights and advocate for their needs. Informing patients about their rights within the healthcare system and supporting their self-advocacy ensures their voices are heard and their needs are addressed.

Mr Nyamongo is the Chief Executive Officer of The Nairobi Hospital

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