Integrating patient empowerment as an essential characteristic of the discipline of general practice/family medicine

Eur J Gen Pract. 2008;14(2):89-94. doi: 10.1080/13814780802423463.


Background: Efforts to improve the quality of healthcare for patients with chronic conditions have resulted in growing evidence supporting the inclusion of patient empowerment as a key ingredient of care. In 2002, WONCA Europe issued the European Definition of General Practice/Family Medicine, which is currently considered the point of reference for European health institutions and general medical practice. Patient empowerment does not appear among the 11 characteristics of the discipline.

Objectives: The aim of this study is to show that many characteristics of general practice are already oriented towards patient empowerment. Therefore, promoting patient empowerment and self-management should be included as a characteristic of the discipline.

Methods: The following investigation was conducted: analysing the concept and approach to empowerment as applied to healthcare in the literature; examining whether aspects of empowerment are already part of general medical practice; and identifying reasons why the European definition of general practice/family medicine should contain empowerment as a characteristic of the discipline.

Results: General practice/family medicine is the most suitable setting for promoting patient empowerment, because many of its characteristics are already oriented towards encouraging it and because its widespread presence can ensure the generalization of empowerment promotion and self-management education to the totality of patients and communities.

Conclusion: "Promoting patient empowerment and self-management" should be considered one of the essential characteristics of general practice/family medicine and should be included in its definition.

MeSH terms

  • Decision Making
  • Family Practice / methods*
  • Family Practice / organization & administration*
  • Family Practice / standards
  • Humans
  • Patient Education as Topic / methods
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Power, Psychological
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Self Care / methods*