Medhealth Review

The key to patient engagement: what would you want for your loved ones?

Private healthcare is a highly competitive environment where managers strive to deliver, knowing very well that patients have choices, and that a facility needs to stand out in order to survive and thrive.

The leadership team is required to juggle the complex interaction between insurance companies, medical legislators, availability of equipment and other clinical services, and the skills and privileges of physicians and other healthcare workers.

In their competitive drive, managers often feel an urge to emphasize and encourage increased patient throughput. The message to the doctors, whether explicit or implicit, is often: try to see as many patients per hour as you can.

It seems to be the obvious way to build a good profit margin, but it comes at a price. It clearly means less time to talk and take a patient’s history, check the patient file, obtain informed consent, explain all the details of the disease and the treatment, and document everything in sufficient detail.

Let’s look at this from the point of view of the patient. Commonly, those looking into patient engagement nowadays tend to take their cues from the hospitality sector, but there is one crucial difference. Hotel guests usually come for comfort and leisure, while patients are mainly motivated by anxiety and concern about their physical condition.

Therefore, if a patient is rushed into a doctor’s office, and then quickly rushed out of it to make way for the next one, questions must be asked: has that anxiety been addressed? Did a conversation take place in which the patient was enabled to verbalize their concern? Was it answered with a proper explanation of the condition, and a proper insight into the diagnostic or therapeutic plan?

Can we claim that this patient had a quality consultation, if the answers to these questions are no?

It’s easy to imagine what our assessment would be, if we replace this hypothetical patient with one of our loved ones. Whether it’s a spouse, a parent, or a child, would you be alright with it if after the consultation, there is still a lot of fear, and many questions have remained unanswered?

Another key component that defines the quality of the consultation is trust, a complex and fragile concept. A popular saying goes: “Trust takes time to build, seconds to destroy, and a lifetime to repair”, and it applies just the same in the relationship between healthcare workers and patients.

In a rushed consultation, how is trust supposed to be established?

One shouldn’t think that trust only becomes important in the risk-ridden treatment of malignancies, or open heart operations. What about cosmetic procedures, where the actions undertaken by the doctor will affect your facial features for years to come? Indeed, trust is a precious currency at any level or type of healthcare.

As the concept of value based care is gaining traction, patient engagement will continue to play a bigger and more pivotal role. As emphasis will increasingly shift towards rewarding healthcare providers for delivering quality outcomes while keeping costs low, it also becomes more important to phase out the mentality of aiming to ‘process’ as many patients per hour as possible.

It’s not only insurance companies that are eyeing the patient-centered model with increasing interest, but the patients themselves will also continue to raise the bar on what they consider to be a positive patient experience. This already starts with the ease of use of the mobile app that they use to create their appointment. They will expect to have an easy and pleasant teleconsultation for minor issues, and to at least be greeted by a receptionist with a warm and friendly smile, if they have to come in for a physical visit.

Once they make it to the doctor’s office, they will not be impressed by a physician who looks rushed, and is mostly seen just typing things into their desktop computer. They will not positively evaluate the doctor who didn’t make them feel cared for, listened to, and deserving of all necessary information.

The shift from quantity towards quality is inevitable, and this finally brings the medical profession back to its very essence: a humanitarian effort. This is where it needs to be; after all, we all wish for our dear parents, spouses, and children to be treated by a professional fellow human with respect, care, and dedication.

We, the healthcare managers, must prepare our facilities to offer that invaluable patient experience, and only hire staff that we would send our own loved ones to for treatment. Doing the right thing doesn’t have to break our bank, and a reputation as a trusted facility with highly qualified experts who are as pleasant as they are knowledgeable, can never be a bad investment.

By Dr. Tariq Shadid is the Medical Director of Mediclinic Al Ain Hospital

Dr. Tariq Shadid is the Medical Director of Mediclinic Al Ain Hospital in the United Arab Emirates, and a Consultant General Surgeon. Additionally, he holds the title of Adjunct Assistant Professor of Surgery at the College of Health and Medical Sciences (CHMS) of the United Arab Emirates University (UAEU).

Dr. Shadid is passionate about the well-being of our fellow humans, this being his core drive for working in Health Care. He believes that quality is an amalgam of state-of-the-art evidence-based medicine, compassionate and honest communication, excellent documentation, and always putting the patient first, every step of the way.

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