Involuntary autonomy: patients' perceptions of physicians, conventional medicines and risks in the management of atop dermatitis

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Consumerism is a major force in western health care. It defines the process in which patients should or do play a more active and central role in making informed choices about health and illness. The talk of patients as consumers is closely linked, and is especially pertinent for patients managing a chronic illness. This article presents findings from a Danish qualitative study that set out to broaden the sociological debate on patients as consumers by including patients' perceptions of conventional medicines. In-depth interviews were carried out with 24 people who medically managed their own or their child's atopic dermatitis. The informants were recruited via the Division of Dermatology in a Danish Hospital which was planning an Information Day on atopic dermatitis (AD). The findings reveal how many of the informants who on the surface appear to match the profile of the so called 'consumer', by being active, critical, informed etc., in fact prefer to consult a patient-centred medical expert (a dermatologist) with good communication skills, who is able to inform, advise and support on issues of managing atopic dermatitis. These people are not seeking more independence but rather a partnership where responsibility for treatment (medicines) is shared. This preference appears to be closely linked with a sense of insecurity about what an outbreak of atopic dermatitis may lead to and insecurity about the medicines. Ultimately, the findings stress that health care politicians and professionals need to reflect upon patient's wants and needs when designing future health care. Turning health care into self-care may not be an appropriate strategy.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSocial Science & Medicine
Issue number9
Pages (from-to)1409-15
Number of pages6
Publication statusPublished - 2009

ID: 15790320