Did you know that patients' rights to information and with respect to being informed can be found in the German Civil Code (BGB)? Cases of patients not even knowing their rights crop up time and time again, and these same individuals do not tend to know that they are contained in this key document of German Civil Law. Nevertheless, we often hear people talking about “consenting patients”, but what exactly is meant by this somewhat antiquated-sounding term?
Something which holds true across the globe, to a greater or lesser extent, is that patients do not only want to be the recipients of medical service, but also want to be involved in the decisions which are made in relation to their care. They want to take on at least a partial responsibility in cases of difficult medical decisions, and to exercise some level of autonomy. They come across as confident and critical consumers, finding out about preventive measures and different illnesses, and organising themselves in self-help groups; but above all else, they want to be actively involved in treatment decisions.
On the other side of the coin, they are demanding from doctors, health insurances or manufacturers to be empowered accordingly to take on or to maintain this responsibility for their health. The new buzzword on the scene is empowerment, and it describes a global phenomenon. The WHO (World Health Organization), for example, defines patient empowerment as the systematic approach to improving the position of patients through information, participation and joint decision making, and considers that empowering people is the responsibility of healthcare professionals.
This is, of course, far easier said than done. In a survey, the digital association Bitkom found that more than half of the population looks for specific information on the internet. And the internet can provide information on practically anything you can imagine, but often this is a matter of quantity over quality. Any internet user searching for medical topics will be inundated with an endless flood of information, health forums, exchange platforms, patient initiatives etc., and plenty of pretenders and unreliable sources to boot. We can see how this information is not always provided with empowerment in mind.
If, on the other hand, people rely on well-founded knowledge sources, for example in the form of patient training or decision-making aids, as well as on the expertise of users and doctors, everyone can benefit. And it makes no odds whether this knowledge is acquired digitally or in the offline world.
Wolfgang Süßle, CEO of L&R, said:
“In a minefield of megatrends, regulatory requirements, legislative changes and reimbursement hurdles, it can sometimes be a real challenge to provide customers with the best possible solutions. Basic conditions are also becoming more and more demanding in our business area. For this reason, we have been expanding the range of educational and training courses offered to users and, in relevant areas, have also been providing these for patients for several years now.”
Dr. Klemens Schulz, CPO of the L&R Group, is responsible for the areas of Global Portfolio Management, Global Marketing, and Packaging Development:
“We always approach our work based on the needs of our customers and patients. We utilise our networks of experts and development centres to seek out and develop solutions and services that meet our most exacting quality requirements and earn the trust of our customers.”
Our new innovative products and solutions, such as L&R’s ReadyWrap, allow patients to support themselves with self-care solutions that shift personal responsibility for treatment onto patients. Studies have shown that when patients are more involved in their care, it can promote adherence to treatment, for example. Sufferers will know more about their illness, have more realistic expectations from treatment, and will ultimately be more satisfied.
Maintaining dialogue with specialist audiences at trade fairs and symposia on the topics of wound care, supports and orthoses, as well as set systems and hygiene, represents a form of bilateral professional exchange on an equal footing, providing L&R with valuable feedback, which in turn influences our communications and the development of new products and solutions. In addition to the extensive and internationally-available opportunities for training and further education offered by the L&R Academy, two current L&R initiatives are representative of a wider undercurrent of renewed dialogue with customers, users and patients.
|Die Wundzentrale||hygiene in practice|
offers insights into the daily practice of doctors and nurses, and everything you need to know about the care of chronic wounds, through its German-language social “Medwork” DocCheck.
Whether you are a GP, diabetologist or wound expert, you might find its ‘interviews with colleagues’ useful in your daily work with patients; you can find helpful fact sheets, practical articles and explanations on the topics of wound prevention, patient adherence and interdisciplinary wound care.
provides news, information and solutions in the fields of hygiene, microbiology and epidemiology.
The mission of this L&R movement is to minimise infection rates.
Through this platform and its social media channels, the company keeps specialists up to date with articles and interviews on current research and practice. hygiene in practice sorts through scientific studies, and supplements them with helpful fact sheets, reports on everyday experiences, and findings from international health experts.
L&R and other like-minded companies committed to a model of the “responsible patient” face four key challenges:
1. Medical Advances
According to Thomas Schulz (“Zukunftsmedizin”, published in 2018 in the DVA):
“in a few years' time, we will be asking ourselves how we could let ourselves be treated by a doctor without having access to a huge amount of data: our DNA analysis, the composition of our microbiome, basic information on our individual proteome. New medical sensors that we wear on or in our bodies, or which are simply integrated into smartphones, will aid in establishing a diagnosis. These sensors will measure our movements, heart rate and blood pressure, and will warn us when our numbers are out of kilter.”
In other words: The task of empowerment is endless: instead of being a box ticked, it only develops to become more and more demanding. With the advent of the Internet of Things, Big Data and Artificial Intelligence, medical progress is definitely not a niche topic anymore. For their part, patients also try to keep up and get their information from Dr. Google & Co. about digital medicine and the improved treatment options out there using innovative medical devices.
Treatment guidelines, preventive check-ups, OTC products – we welcome all of them with open arms. They are valued by the responsible patient if they come from a trustworthy provider who can explain the meaning and purpose of an application or therapy, thus allowing the patient to become "empowered" in their own care. And it is only then that we will come full circle.
2. Limited Resources
An ageing society demands a high level of expenditure on medical services, care and treatments to make it possible for people to lead an independent life for as long as possible. Even if medical progress means people can live longer, whilst ideally staying fit and healthy into their old age, expenditure on health systems globally are increasing year on year. When compared globally, the EU is one of the regions that invests the most money in its health systems, and Germany is the front runner within the EU*. Financing our health systems is undoubtedly one of the most significant challenges facing society around the globe.
It should also be said that it is a challenge which is yet to be met, and it affects all the different providers who operate in these markets. And on top of that, cost pressures are now becoming apparent: who would have thought that in a country with a great pharmaceutical tradition like Germany there would be supply problems in the case of almost 300 drugs due to production being relocated abroad for cost reasons?
3. Strict Regulations
This challenge is one faced by the entire medical device sector. Many companies complain about the high expenditure brought about by extensive regulations which are already in place, or due to the new European Medical Device Regulation (MDR).
On the other hand, there can be no compromises when it comes to patient safety. The L&R Quality Management department is prepared for the MDR, and successfully completed the complex TÜV audit in 2019, including two new regulations. The L&R Group is a member of BVMed, whose name roughly translates as “The Federal Association of Medical Technologies”, and is also involved in the Association's projects to ensure patient safety in different care processes.
4. Networked Thinking
Those who are guided by the “responsible patient” model have to go beyond just engaging in empowerment by providing information and advice; they need to offer additional services relating to medicine and medical devices, and network different parties with one another. L&R provides both direct and indirect support for responsible patients with its products and solutions, provided via doctors and nursing staff over all the different stages of their medical care. In addition to launching new products, solutions and services to market, L&R develops new concepts for the responsible patient of the future as part of its innovation management, working with a close-knit network of experts, universities and users.
That alone represents a paradigm shift: instead of the power of knowledge being shut off behind closed doors, there is more exchange going on than ever before between the different actors in the health system. The driving force behind this cooperation can be found in the conviction that a responsible, informed patient can help to maintain the high quality of our health systems, and maybe even improve them. And it is down to every single person involved in the healthcare system to ensure that this positive change can continue.