If you talk to me long enough, you’ll hear some type of rant about the state of health care in the US. As both a provider and a patient, it’s on my mind a lot. I’ve had experiences with more healthcare providers than I can, or want to, count.
Despite being of different backgrounds and specialties, there are a few things they have in common – and they’re not good.
While I’ve had amazing providers who have changed my life, the vast majority have been negative experiences. This is my personal experience, but you can also find extensive studies about those have also had challenging interactions. It’s not just me.
The one good part of this constant battle is that it’s made me a better provider.
I don’t do to my clients what I hate being done to me. There are a few simple ways to make the overall experience SO much better. They’re not hard, but it’s rare that a provider looks at the experience from a patient’s perspective.
For all the providers out there, I hope you read this and take it to heart. For all the patients, know that you can expect these things from your physician, therapist, etc. You can also request better treatment (or move to work with someone else) if this isn’t what you’re getting.
When you walk into the room, introduce yourself.
This is for all the medical assistants out there. Picture this: you’re sitting there waiting on the table, someone walks in the room and says, “Okay so please give me your arm, I’m going to need to take your blood pressure…”. Cool, AND YOU ARE?!
There’s a person across from you. You wouldn’t sit down with a new business associate and start talking about your project proposal without an intro.
The patient in the room is in a vulnerable position just by coming into the office and asking for help. They’re going to be more open (and thus make your job easier) if they feel comfortable, and this is a really easy way to help make that happen.
Your intake form? It’s too long.
Trust me, it is. They all are, especially in medical offices. If your intake form takes longer than 5-7 minutes to fill out, it’s too long.
I understand why intake forms exists. I use them! They’re helpful to get an overall picture before you meet with someone. I understand the time constraints that insurance billing require providers to work with, making getting a full picture face to face more difficult.
However, unless someone is coming in for a routine appointment or a simple, short term issue, they can’t describe what’s happening on a piece of paper. It’s also really uncomfortable to describe something so personal on a form. Talk to your patients/clients. Intakes should be short and not the primary way you get information. You can learn a lot more from how someone shares a summary of their issue as well as make them feel safer in your care.
This is a big one and it’s more complicated that you might think. It’s rare when I can get through my whole explanation of what goes on in my body. I’m usually interrupted, getting the impression that the person I’m speaking to is either bored, short on time, or thinks they don’t need all of the information in order to treat me. Needless to say, that never gets us off to a good start. I’m guarded and untrustworthy moving forward, even if it’s on an unconscious level. They aren’t in my corner. They don’t really want to help. They’re just going through the motions.
Leave your ego at home.
This is a piggyback to the whole listening thing. Your patient or client knows themselves better than you do. Read that again.
I don’t care how many years of training you have or what accomplishments you’ve had in your career. The person in front of you knows themselves better than you do, especially if they’ve been dealing with an issue for a while. My response to a client telling me something I’m suggesting doesn’t work for them? “Okay.”
That’s it. That’s the only acceptable answer. From there, you can help find them something they think WILL work. It’s baffling to me the number of times I have been in that situation and have been met with an argument.
Look, I get it. Some people are stubborn AF and have their own stuff getting in the way of them moving forward. It happens to the best of us more than once. It’s hard not to get in your own way sometimes. You know what won’t help? An argument! If you push back and try to bully someone into doing something with their care or convince them their experience was wrong, they’re not doing it. They might say they will to get you to shhh, but they’re not going to. On top of that, you’ve now broken trust so they’re probably not listening to anything else you say.
Check the ego. You aren’t always right, even if your textbooks and previous experience make you think you absolutely are. You might be – for the other 99% of people who are managing something similar. But there’s always that 1%, and they matter too. Swallow your pride, listen, and work with people where they are.
You might now be thinking, shouldn’t this always be happening?!
Yes. It should. For many reasons, it’s not. How can we fix it, you ask?
Here’s where I add a shameless plug: VOTE.
Vote for those who will make healthcare accessible and pay providers fairly. Vote for those who will fund “alternative” treatments as much as traditional western medicine practices are funded. Vote for those who believe healthcare is a right, not a privilege.
And if you are a provider, save this post and read it often. I promise these changes will make a massive difference to those you help.