From the Doctor's Desk: Power to the Patients

July 12, 2011


By Daniel Hoch, PhD, MD
Editor, for Patients and Caregivers

The practice of neurology has changed tremendously in the last few decades. "From the Doctor's Desk" has tried to highlight some of these advances in diagnostic tools and treatments. But our practice is also changed by forces that affect the entire practice of medicine. For example, the relationship between clinicians and patients is in flux as health systems try to be more "patient centered," give patients greater access to data in electronic records, and engage them in decision-making.

I have been using electronic tools to work with my patients for many years. I've been involved in the formation of online discussion groups, and used email and a dedicated website to interact with my own patients. But, the relationship between clinicians and patients has evolved independently of fancy electronic communication tools.

For anyone interested in the empowerment of patients and the ways that the doctor-patient relationship has changed over time, a recent article in the Journal of Participatory Medicine is well worth reading.

In it, Michael Millenson places the idea of patient-centered care into historical perspective. In his overview, Millenson weaves together the impact Benjamin Spock, MD, triggered on child-rearing, the feminist movement, and the concepts of informed consent and shared medical decision-making. He clearly shows that the roots of our present efforts to engage patients and develop "patient-centered care" are extensive.

Neurologic care benefits most when patients and doctors work together effectively. Most doctors welcome patients who advocate for themselves and become better educated about their neurologic problems. On this website, we offer resources for working with your doctor. We also offer, in partnership with the National Institute for Neurologic Disorders and Stroke, access to more than 200 disorder-specific web pages. I encourage you to not only read the Millenson article, but make full use of our AAN resources.