Objective: This paper examines how the term "empowerment" has been used in relation to the care and education of patients with chronic conditions over the past decade.
Methods: Fifty-five articles were analysed, using a qualitative method of thematic analysis.
Results: Empowerment is more often defined according to some of its anticipated outcomes rather than to its very nature. However, because they do not respect the principle of self-determination, most anticipated outcomes and most evaluation criteria are not specific to empowerment. Concerning the process of empowerment, our analysis shows that (i) the educational objectives of an empowerment-based approach are not disease-specific, but concern the reinforcement or development of general psychosocial skills instead; (ii) empowering methods of education are necessarily patient-centred and based on experiential learning; and (iii) the provider-patient relationship needs to be continuous and self-involving on both sides.
Conclusion: Our analysis did not allow for the unfolding of a well-articulated theory on patient empowerment but revealed a number of guiding principles and values.
Practice implications: The goals and outcomes of patient empowerment should neither be predefined by the health-care professionals, nor restricted to some disease and treatment-related outcomes, but should be discussed and negotiated with every patient, according to his/her own particular situation and life priorities.