Clinical Linkages’ blog, 21st Century Patients, is resurfacing after a yearlong hiatus. The new format will emphasize the critical importance of supporting the clinician-patient partnership today.
Healthcare is in the midst of dramatic changes that are placing considerable pressure on the clinician-patient partnership. Without effective partnering between patients and clinicians, healthcare becomes an impersonal space despite sophisticated technology, medications, and a retail approach of customer service.
Patients, families, and clinicians alike recognize that this undercurrent is impacting time spent together for listening and shared decision-making. They are, however, the center-of-care paradigm, and their ability to influence the currents of change is increasing.
Our posts are designed to surface issues where together patients and clinicians can make a difference. Topics will cover a spectrum of issues such as Shared Decision Making, Preventing and Managing Infections, Medication Errors and Falls, and how to optimize communication in the limited time available, both in the hospital and in an office setting.
The Crucial Question: Are We Engaged?
“Patient engagement” has become the industry mantra despite the fact that there is no common understanding of what this term means. The confusion this presents is clearly outlined in a comprehensive Canadian study. Nevertheless, it has fueled a plethora of efforts to “engage” patients through technology as well as a vast array of projects to change work environments, measure patient readiness to engage, and more.
Patient engagement has been called a blockbuster drug for healthcare’s ills. This is a very large expectation to place on a term that has no common understanding.
As a long-time clinician, I think the analogy does not fit the complexity of caring for people. In fact, many patients are very involved with their health; some fight to get the needed treatment for themselves or a loved one when our “non-system” fails to connect the dots.
Likewise, clinicians are struggling to find the time to make patient encounters meaningful. If you ask a busy nurse or physician in a hospital setting what he or she needs most to improve care, you are likely to hear “more time with patients” and “less time at the computer terminal.”
In order for the industry to effectively support “engagement” in patient care, we must take a realistic approach to the meaning of the term as it relates to patients’ needs in our respective areas. Engaging patients in the post anesthesia care unit or in coronary care will have a different set of expectations than the time they spend in an office or clinic setting.
Engagement: Not by Magic!
Thankfully, the Institute of Medicine reminds us in its report on partnering for shared decisions that “engagement” is not a trait for either patients or clinicians:
“Patient engagement is a skill, not a trait. Being an engaged patient and actively engaging patients are not intuitive skills. Patients and clinicians learn these skills over time and through partnership with a supportive team.”
This document is the result of patient and clinician working group and is a helpful reference for both patients and clinicians. It addresses key issues such as:
- our cultures of care,
- the importance of listening,
- the role of trust, and
- the reality check that without these factors supporting shared decision-making the industry will never make significant progress with high quality and costs.
We look forward to supporting meaningful dialog through the blog posts, so please share your comments. Only by working together can we keep the beat in the heart of healthcare that is the patient-clinician partnership.
Tagged With: Patient engagement, shared decision making, time, empowered patients, clinicians, hospital care