In healthcare, we always talk about, “patient-centered care.” I do believe healthcare organizations have the best intentions, however, in reality, I find just the opposite both in my work as a healthcare speaker / consultant and with my own experiences as a patient.
“Just a Patient”
I have been a healthcare professional for over 20 years, however in 1999 I became a patient after being diagnosed with Stage III Colon cancer (I am well today). After treatment was completed, I recall going to my oncologist’s office for a follow up visit. I was wearing a suit as I was on my way to a client meeting. In the office, I was talking to a pharmaceutical representative. During my conversation, a nurse ran up to the representative and said to him, “You don’t need to talk to him. He is just a patient.” Immediately another nurse (who knew me), ran up to the nurse who made the comment and said, “I can’t believe you said that him! He teaches healthcare professionals how to communicate with patients and now he will use us as a bad example!” The second nurse then said to me, “You aren’t going to mention this story, are you?” I told her, “Of course I will not mention the story.” Ha!
Are the people you serve, “Just patients?”
Discouraging Patients from Taking an Active Role in Their Care
In healthcare, we discuss patients being their own advocates and taking an active role in their care. Once again, what is said and reality are often not the same. In my work at coaching healthcare professionals, I have seen patients bring print outs from their Internet research, only to be told, “Don’t worry about the Internet, I know what is best.”
When patients come to you with Internet print outs, the first words out of your mouth should be, “THANK YOU!” We need to encourage people to take an active role in their health, not discourage them. The conversation should then follow up with a discussion of legitimate websites (e.g., NIH) versus quack websites.
When I speak at healthcare events, I always position myself as a healthcare professional who also happened to be a patient. For one event, I made the mistake of first discussing my patient experiences and then I saw just how poorly patients are seen in the healthcare system. The meeting coordinator said to me, “How nice you want to share your story. However, this is a program for professionals only. No patients are invited.” Even though I explained I was a healthcare professional, once they saw me as a patient, I immediately had no value. I felt like I was verbally patted on the head and told to “run along.”
Let’s stop talking about putting patients first and just do it!
Edward Leigh, MA, is the Founder and Director of the Center for Healthcare Communication. The Center focuses on increasing patient satisfaction and decreasing the risk of medical errors. We offer high-impact training, consulting and one-on-one coaching. Contact us today!
http://www.CommunicatingWithPatients.com or 1-800-677-3256