Healthy Relationship, Healthy Culture

One of the three main goals of the Triple Aim is to improve the health of populations. From a medical perspective, managing a population’s health is being responsible for a patient, regardless of if they come into the office.

How can healthcare providers improve the health of our culture? This is a question that has been lingering for quite some time now, but soon will have to be seriously pursued.

The Beryl Institute defines patient experience as, “the sum of all interactions, shaped by an organization’s culture, that influence patient perceptions across the continuum of care.”

Patient motivation

The chronic diseases that we are faced with, in America, boil down to lifestyle issues. Hypertension, diabetes and cholesterol, to name a few, are dependent upon diet, exercise and weight. Genetics may play a part in an individual’s struggle, however the major determining factor of chronic disease is one’s lifestyle.

So, how can we motivate a patient to take better care of themselves? As a healthcare provider, I understand what a patient needs to do—change eating habits, manage weight, quit smoking, etc., but how do I go about expressing these changes in a way that facilitates a positive patient experience?

Patient satisfaction

Patient satisfaction has become a large part of hospital’s and provider’s evaluations because it will impact their pay. Unfortunately, many hospitals and providers view this as a popularity contest, thus ignoring whether they are serving their patients well, while meeting medical needs.

At one point in time, all of us have allowed the staleness of an exam room to overtake us. You tell a patient that in order to experience improved health results, they must lose weight or quit smoking. This doesn’t always generate a happy patient; sometimes it results in an angry patient.

Is our job to make patients happier or healthier? Relationships with our patients are everything. Asking a patient to make a significant lifestyle change can be unpleasant for them and quite frankly, is fruitless outside of a relationship. When we lose sight of the fact they need a personal connection, we greatly reduce our chances of the patient being motivated or better engaged in their treatment plan.

Physicians tend to blow off this concept of patient satisfaction, but there is a place where you relate to the patient and convey through a “personal connection” how their lifestyle is negatively impacting their health. The patient’s engagement is most influenced by this “personal connection”.

Jason A. Wolf, Ph.D., President of The Beryl Institute, described a recent healthcare experience when his son was born, “It was the interactions, it was the culture—the people who cared for us each day—that ultimately drove our perceptions and made our experience so great.”

We have to take ownership in our patient’s level of engagement and stop blaming patients when they don’t do what we ask and experience the health repercussions of bad lifestyle choices.

If we are going to help improve the culture of healthcare, we have to be more intentional about how we interact with patients. Successful patient satisfaction really will translate into a patient’s engagement in their treatment plan.