Why Patients Need More Choices in Healthcare Decision Making

We Americans love choices. Choice implies some measure of freedom and autonomy, and freedom is something we cherish. So why is it that we seem to have so few choices in the healthcare decision-making realm? Why does it feel like we are being dictated to by insurance carriers and healthcare systems?


Perhaps we feel the way we do because healthcare really is being dictated to us. And if so, things should not be this way. We pay for healthcare services. We pay for surgeries, diagnostic testing, and prescription medications. We ought to be given as many choices as possible.


Respecting Patient Autonomy


Giving patients as many choices as possible shows respect for their autonomy. Offering choices also encourages them to take ownership of their care. That is the philosophy at KindlyMD, a Utah healthcare group that operates multiple clinics throughout the state. KindlyMD specializes in complete care and plant-based medicines.


KindlyMD clinicians expect their patients to exercise autonomy. They want their patients to always be in control. That being the case, they make an effort to offer as many choices as possible. They recommend what they believe are the best choices in each case, then leave it to patients to make the final decision.


Collaborating and Building Trust


Our healthcare system may be a for-profit system, but maximizing profits is not supposed to be the end goal. Optimal patient health is the goal. And in order for that goal to be reached, healthcare providers and patients need to collaborate.


Successful collaboration is built on trust. If a patient does not trust their healthcare provider, the collaborative effort will suffer. Ironically, one of the quickest ways to destroy trust is to dictate. People do not like being dictated to. If a healthcare provider wants patients to trust him, offering choices needs to be part of the equation.


Unnecessary Procedures Need to Go


Some argue that giving patients too many choices only promote unnecessary procedures. I disagree. When all a patient’s choices are explained properly – including the choice to reject a recommended procedure – patients are more likely to be thoughtful and circumspect. Given all the evidence, they can tell when a procedure is unnecessary. If they elect to have that procedure done anyway, fine. They have exercised their autonomy.


The other side of the coin is undergoing unnecessary procedures just because a healthcare provider has said so. I seriously wonder how many people do that. There are people in my own circle of friends who never question their doctor’s recommendations. They spend a good portion of their time and a considerable amount of money running from one procedure to the next. It doesn’t make sense to me.


Healthcare Is Constantly Evolving


The icing on the cake is that healthcare is constantly evolving. New drugs and procedures are being developed, tested, and introduced. Researchers continue learning more about conditions and diseases we have been treating for generations. And of course, new conditions are also being discovered.


The evolutionary nature of healthcare demands choices. It dictates that treatments and procedures do not remain static perpetually. Think about it. How are we still treating back pain with opioid painkillers given what we have learned about both opioids and spinal anatomy over the years? There are much better ways to address back pain than addictive drugs.


You can probably tell that I am no fan of restricting choices in healthcare. I stand firmly on the belief that patients should be given as many choices as possible. Not only that, but their choices should also be thoroughly explained to them. Anything short of that is a disservice.

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