Regarding the Dec. 1 Health & Science article “Patients make themselves heard”:

While I appreciate the effort to further the discussion of engaging patients in their health, the article put the burden on patients to take the lead. That is an unrealistic expectation. Patients don’t want to be equal partners with their health-care providers. They want to be respected, heard and informed by their physicians. They want their physicians to take the lead in patient-provider communication.

Patients don’t always have the tools to “step up and speak up,” as suggested. They are less likely to retain health information or feel comfortable asking questions during doctor appointments. In fact, patients forget 80 percent of what they learn there.

Patients need their hospitals and doctors to guide them throughout their episode of care — before, during and after a medical procedure or hospital stay. They cannot be expected to proactively search out or even understand medical information without this reliable support.

Patients should be discouraged from searching for health information online. Online sources are often unreliable and conflicting.  

When doctors and hospitals provide education and set patient expectations, patients feel connected, informed, empowered and able to take a larger part in their health and health care.

Debra Zalvan, Needham, Mass.

The writer is executive vice president
of marketing at UbiCare, a health-care firm
focused on patient engagement.