It was not until the 18th century that scientists accepted the existence of queen bees. Until that point they insisted that only a “king bee” could be in control. But the queen had always been in control, it just took us a while to believe and understand this. Similarly, around the world, patients are already in control. As more people believe and understand this, they design the health care system differently. This is the reason that hospitals, patient charities, pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies and government payers around the world are adopting Patients Know Best, a patient-controlled medical records system.
The march of specialisation
There is no consumer movement or campaign behind this shift to patient control – rather the steady march of progress towards ever increasing levels of medical specialisation. Specialisation has allowed for miracles of modern medicine, overcoming the natural limitations of how much knowledge any single human can have. Health professionals today have an increasingly deeper knowledge about an increasingly smaller area of medicine and the human body.
These specialists pool their knowledge: nurses, doctors, pharmacists and surgeons are all becoming specialists in their particular fields. GPs have the broadest knowledge of all but they have become specialists at identifying a complaint or set of conditions and referring a patient to the most appropriate expert – that is also a specialisation. Specialisation happened quickly and massively over the last 100 years, and over the next 100 it will be faster and bigger still.
So who knows about the whole patient? The patient and their carers: they are the only ones who have been to all the appointments, the only ones who know what different teams are prescribing, the only ones who are able to join the dots. Handing back control to the patient is not about passing the buck, it’s about handing back control to the person who is best equipped and best placed to manage his or her own care.