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Public Health (15-05-2012)

What does "patient involvement" mean for doctors and patients across European Union?

Today, the European Commission published the results of the Qualitative Eurobarometer on patient involvement in healthcare. This study was launched in order to get a clear view on what patients and doctors think about patient involvement. In-depth interviews were held with patients and healthcare professionals in 15 EU Member States to examine opinions, challenges and opportunities.

Some key findings of the report:

  • The term "patient involvement" is not clearly understood by either patients or practitioners and often means different things to different people. Many patients describe a “traditional doctor-patient relationship”, where the doctor's opinion is considered as being beyond questioning and patients feel uncomfortable giving feedback .
  • Communication is considered very important, but both patients and practitioners describe how doctors have insufficient time to explain treatment options.
  • The main risks of patient involvement, mentioned by both patients and practitioners, are increased demands on practitioners' time, and the possibility of patients disagreeing with doctors’ opinions. This would also have financial implications.
  • The Internet is generally felt to be the area where there has been the most significant development with almost all patients now having greater access to information about their symptoms and healthcare (as well as healthcare options). This is seen as positive by patients but is more ambivalent for some practitioners.
  • Patients in Eastern European countries are most likely to be dissatisfied with their current level of involvement in healthcare and want to be more involved. However, this response is not universal.
  • Chronically ill patients tend to have more experience in self-monitoring and often have a more tangible understanding of "patient involvement".

This research was qualitative in nature and is therefore not intended to be representative of the views of either practitioners or patients in the participating countries1. Conclusions reflect the experience and views of those who took part in the study. It provides interesting topics raised in the interviews about patient involvement in clinical practice.

Further information

The full Qualitative Eurobarometer on patient involvement can be found here:

1 Due to the nature of the study it has not been possible to include all Member States.The 15 Member States were selected in order to achieve a geographical spread across the EU."