If I came to your practice tomorrow, how would I see you humanizing healthcare?

Would I see you creating great patient experiences by bridging the gap between the clinical and human sides of healthcare? Or, would I see you struggling with the same things so many other providers deal with. Things like: unrealistic clinical goals, pressure to see more patients in less time, administrative burdens, and more? We know humanizing healthcare is important, but these struggles can make it hard to be more “human” because we’re too busy being efficient!

If we place greater value on efficiency than on elevating the human side of healthcare, there can be unintended consequences.

Don’t Make Me Repeat My Story Over and Over!

There are two hot commodities to patients: time and respect. Yet, how many times do we say to patients, “So…what brings you here today?”

Patients tell their story to the person who makes their appointment.
Patients tell their story to the person who checks them in.
Patients tell their story to the nurse.

When the doctor finally arrives in the room, she may glance at the chart for a moment , and then — with the very best intentions — ask the patient, “So…what brings you in today?”

The patient has now redundantly told the same story four times. Imagine how frustrating this must be!

The doctor isn’t rude for asking the question. Of course the doctor needs to know and understand why the patient is here. But the redundancy is simply an unintended consequence of trying to be efficient, trying to do the right thing, and making an attempt to connect with her patients.

But to the patient, it appears there’s a lack of communication. And perhaps a lack of consideration or respect.

The frustrated patient is thinking don’t ask me to repeat to you what I already told your staff multiple times!

The patient may take their frustration out on someone on the care team. Now that team member becomes frustrated and unhappy and maybe they call in sick because this is the last straw and they’re sick of dealing with grumpy patients…it’s a vicious cycle.

How To Humanize Healthcare

But there IS a way to inject more “human” into healthcare (despite demands to be more efficient.)

We can focus on humanizing healthcare by intentionally placing equal importance on both sides of the patient experience: the clinical side and the human side. Or, what we do and how well we do it.

To the patient, how well we do it, is the difference between a good experience and a bad one. Or, how well the care team communicates with one another and in turn how well they communicate to their patients is important.

The doctor in this example can humanize the experience by making a small adjustment to the words she uses.

“I see by the notes my team shared that you’re here for a knee injury you sustained while working out. Can you tell me more?”

That’s different than saying, “What brings you in today?” By doing this, the doctor acknowledges the patient has already told their story (which shows respect for the patient’s time and concerns) and she is efficiently gathering information in order to properly care for the patient.

Obviously, patients don’t have the same level of clinical training and medical expertise that you have. They are not experts on the clinical side of healthcare.

However, patients ARE experts at what they know and understand — qualities like kindness, courtesy, compassion, and respect.

These are the qualities that help humanize healthcare.

Focusing on integrating these qualities into every patient interaction will help elevate the human side of healthcare and improve the patient experience.