Intended for healthcare professionals

eBMJ -- Patients as partners

Patients as partners?

Many patients now want a say in decisions that affect their health. Some are keen to go further and are arguing for the concept of patients as partners. To them, the patient’s view of what constitutes good medical practice is just as important as the doctor’s. They believe that any decision about an individual patient’s care must be based on what that individual believes and wants - after they have been fully and impartially informed. And they have evidence on their side: studies show that when patients are fully informed and decisions about their health are made jointly with them, health outcomes are better and costs are lower.

Others think that the idea of partnership with patients is neither feasible nor desirable. The pressure on doctors to see and deal with patients as quickly as possible has never been greater. In the average consultation there is scarcely time to define (or exclude) medical problems let alone discuss metaphysics. Arguably patients - particularly distressed and vulnerable ones (which is just about everyone when ill) - seek the same things from doctors that they seek from other professional experts: help and guidance. They want an informed opinion on the best course of action from a doctor they can trust. They don’t want to be presented with vast chunks of indigestible, conflicting data and told to make up their own minds.

What do you think?

Is the concept of patients as partners valid and useful?

If so, how should doctors respond?

Or is this just the latest enthusiasm to emerge from the consumerist wing of the largely well, middle class?

We would greatly value your views on these questions now, and any contributions in the form of papers, editorials, letters, personal views and the like for our forthcoming theme issue in September on Patients as Partners.

Guest editor: Angela Coulter

Editorial contact: Tessa Richards, trichards{at}