How Do We Empower People in Their Own Care?


As we prepare for the rollout of the Affordable Care Act and the inclusion of 32 million additional Americans into the healthcare system, each player in the healthcare arena – including industry, providers and innovators – is identifying ways to address our most pressing health challenges, while improving value. At the heart of this great debate is an opportunity to consider the role of the empowered individual and potential for expanded “self-care” to improve the delivery, effectiveness and affordability of healthcare.

People are changing their views on what it means to be healthy, and how they want to pursue good health. Health ranks high on their list of values, and many try to take better care of their health today than they did just a few years ago. Just consider the aging Boomer generation. By 2030, one-fifth of the U.S. population will be 65 or over, requiring more healthcare services than any other generation. Already, more than half are interested in using in-home medical devices to monitor their health – imagine what another 17 years will bring.

Thanks to expanded access to health information and mobile technologies, people are equipped with an unprecedented ability to understand and manage their own health. They are more proactive, informed and engaged than ever before. They regularly seek out and weigh complex healthcare information, oftentimes consulting four or more resources to make informed decisions. When available, more than two-thirds prefer to use an OTC medicine rather than see a doctor for a prescription and find that access to OTCs saves them time. Individuals are also embracing a new relationship with providers and feel comfortable using technology to communicate with their doctor virtually instead of just in person.

Research suggests that the more people are engaged in their own healthcare, the better their health outcomes and the lower their healthcare costs. Yet, the paths to increased empowerment are not entirely clear. This will serve as the basis of our discussion at Mayo Transform: “How Do We Empower People in Their Own Care?” I’m excited to be part of a timely panel moderated by Nancy Snyderman, MD, NBC News, and featuring Judith Hibbard, DrPH, University of Oregon; Sally Okun, RN, PatientsLikeMe; and Carrie Nelson, MD, Advocate Physician Partners.

We’re curious to learn, in the new healthcare environment, if there are expedient solutions that can improve the value of our healthcare system and address treatment gaps that haven’t been fully explored. To what degree can increased access to health information enable individuals to more independently manage their own care? How does this transform the patient-provider relationship? Can we broaden our understanding of the conditions that can be self-diagnosed, self-treated and self-managed, and expand consumer healthcare options accordingly? Can these solutions help reduce the burden on the healthcare system?

Together with our attendees and webcast audience, we’ll discuss what’s next in empowerment, where we might go and how we’ll get there.

Mark Gelbert is Senior Vice President, Global R&D, Head of Rx-to-OTC Switch at Pfizer Consumer Healthcare