Anyone living with a chronic disease can attest to the fact that along with the initial diagnosis comes a wave of emotions that can drain a person’s motivation to seek out proper medical care (Turner & Kelly, 2000) and undermine the ability to stick to a consistent treatment regimen (every adherence study ever published). Further, the feelings of fear, powerlessness, confusion, frustration and anger that accompany a new chronic disease diagnosis are often under-appreciated by the healthcare system, making the process of managing a condition over time even more daunting and lonely.
Frankly, people with chronic conditions are sick and tired of being sick and tired.
Many are scared and demoralized as they say goodbye to the life they once knew and are forced to accept an entirely new set of challenges and responsibilities, and, in some cases, a bleak long-term outlook.
It is within this context that the healthcare system communicates with patients. As patients with newly diagnosed chronic disease come to terms with the near-insurmountable transformation required of them, they receive clinical messages from physicians, pharmacies, payors and pharma that are rife with negative overtones, and too often are delivered in ways that are dry and unengaging.
It doesn’t have to be this way. In an era of unprecedented therapeutic options across so many disease states, and with an understanding that emotional state can directly affect a person’s ability to self-manage a chronic condition (Kalra et al.), there is much more that stakeholders can do to positively engage patients as we educate them. We can even harness optimism and a sense of community as therapeutic tools.
Today, the onus is on the stakeholder to better understand what patients are truly experiencing — in terms of both the mind and body— so we can meet patients more effectively where they are. When we consider the context within which we communicate with patients, we can go beyond just a framework of medication management. We can become a means for transformation.
And isn’t that exactly what we’re asking patients to do?