American Society of Internal Medicine (ACP-ASIM) Foundation, and the European Federation of Internal Medicine embodies three fundamental principles to guide the medical profession, including:
Principle of Patient Autonomy. Physicians must have respect for patient autonomy. Physicians must be honest with their patients and empower them to make informed decisions about their treatment. Patients’ decisions about their care must be paramount, as long as those decisions are in keeping with ethical practice and do not lead to demand for inappropriate care (American Board of Internal Medicine et al., 2002, p. 244).
The current focus on making the health care system more patient-centered stems at least in part from the growth in chronic care needs discussed above. Effective care of a person with a chronic condition is a collaborative process, involving extensive communication between the patient and the multidisciplinary team (Wagner et al., 2001). Patients and their families or other lay caregivers deliver much if not most of the care. Patients must have the confidence and skills to manage their condition, and they must understand their care plan (e.g., drug regimens and test schedules) to ensure proper and safe implementation. For many chronic diseases, such as asthma, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and arthritis, effective ongoing management involves changes in diet, increased exercise, stress reduction, smoking cessation, and other aspects of lifestyle (Fox and Gruman, 1999; Lorig et al., 1999; Von Korff et al., 1997).
Pressures to make the care system more respectful of and responsive to the needs, preferences, and values of individual patients also stem from the increasing ethnic and cultural diversity that characterizes much of the United States. Although minority populations constitute less than 30 percent of the national population, in some states, such as California, they already constitute about 50 percent of the population (Institute for the Future, 2000). A culturally diverse population poses challenges that go beyond simple language competency and include the need to understand the effects of lifestyle and cultural differences on health status and health-related behaviors; the need to adapt treatment plans and modes of delivery to different lifestyles and familial patterns; the implications of a diverse genetic endowment among the population; and the prominence of nontraditional providers as well as family caregivers.
Although there has been a virtual explosion in Web-based health and health care information that might help patients and clinicians make more informed decisions, the information provided is of highly variable quality (Berland et al., 2001; Biermann et al., 1999; Landro, 2001). Some sites provide valid and reliable information. These include the National Library of Medicine’s Medline Plus sites (Lindberg and Humphreys, 1999); the National Diabetes Education Program, launched by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health (U.S. Gov-