Patient empowerment: myths and misconceptions

Patient Educ Couns. 2010 Jun;79(3):277-82. doi: 10.1016/j.pec.2009.07.025. Epub 2009 Aug 13.


Objective: The purpose of this article is to clarify the concept of empowerment and to correct common misconceptions about its use in diabetes care and education.

Methods: The patient empowerment approach is well suited to helping patients make self-selected changes related to weight, nutrition, and physical activity. Although the concept of patient empowerment has become an integral part of diabetes education, an accurate understanding and authentic application of empowerment has not occurred as readily. The empowerment approach is clarified and common misconceptions have been corrected.

Results: Embracing empowerment means making a paradigm shift that is often difficult because the traditional approach to care is embedded in the training and socialization of most health care professionals (HCPs).

Conclusion: Unlike the traditional approach, empowerment is not something one does to patients. Rather, empowerment begins when HCPs acknowledge that patient are in control of their daily diabetes care. Empowerment occurs when the HCPs goal is to increase the capacity of patients to think critically and make autonomous, informed decisions. Empowerment also occurs when patients are actually making autonomous, informed decisions about their diabetes self-management.

Practice implications: Clarity about all aspects of the empowerment approach is essential if it is to be used effectively.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Body Weight
  • Communication
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / diet therapy
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / prevention & control*
  • Disease Management
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Motor Activity*
  • Nutritional Status*
  • Patient Education as Topic*
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Power, Psychological*
  • Quality of Life / psychology
  • Self Care