Online banking puts our money under our control. We can move it where we wish without having to ask for the assistance of a bank clerk. Imagine achieving the same thing with medical care. What if we were able to conduct and monitor our own treatments? Well, to some extent this is already a reality, and increasingly so.
To be effective, online banking needs substantial infrastructure; a responsible banking institution and a set of highly efficient systems to provide the direct mechanisms of control we crave. The same would naturally be true of medicine. Patient empowerment requires technical and educational support to make it viable. Just ask the diabetes sufferer. Once the training and technologies are provided, he can monitor his own blood sugar levels and inject the right amount of insulin.
By way of another example, a hospital-based project in Yorkshire, UK explored the experience of placing more responsibility for administrating kidney dialysis with its patients. Some of the functions normally carried out by nurses were passed on to patients. Nurses were able to spend more time supporting those who were struggling. The political issue about this project was naturally that it saves money. But what mattered most was that the patients appreciated the opportunity to take more control of the process. Their level of satisfaction rose.
With increasing numbers of people living long term with chronic disease, the opportunity to devolve the initiative and operation of medical care is both a boon to wellbeing and an essential saving on medical resources. Academics call this ‘co-production’; the professional and the client working together to achieve a more effective outcome.
Initiative for health is in so many ways passing to people themselves. It is a new and exciting atmosphere of self-empowerment that reflects well the other freedoms we have gained through the application of technology and innovation. We can say now with more conviction that it is ‘our health’.