Why Listening to Patients is the Only Advice We’ll Ever Need

I spoke with a woman last week who freely wanted to give her thoughts about her healthcare experience being a cancer patient. Afterwards I thought how silly it is to spend money on consultants when patients are willing and eager to give us exactly what it is we need to hear in order to improve their experience. Then it’s up to us if we are willing to listen, and act on it.

In just a short half an hour she confirmed many things I know and also shared new, practical ideas on what differentiates a patient’s experience as great versus one where they walk away and never want to come back–and tell the whole world about it on Facebook.

Her humble, genuine advice came straight from her heart, from her own very personal experiences being a person newly diagnosed with a horrible disease. Three of her pearls of wisdom included:

Reassurance: One of her doctors came in, held her hand and told her, “Don’t you worry. I’m going to take care of you like I would my own family.” You could still see the smile in her eyes at how much his reassurance meant in a time in her life when she was scared as hell.

Being able to Ask Questions and Understand her care: Conversely, another doctor dismissed her after she brought a nurse friend to her appointment to help translate and ask appropriate questions that she knew she wouldn’t know to ask on her own. The doctor did not appreciate the extra company, or the extra questions, and she was forced to start looking for a new doctor.

Communication and Education about her treatment:  Her last bit of advice was regarding how lost she felt in terms of knowing how the treatment would affect her and what exactly  she needed to do to take care of herself, specifically when it came to her colostomy bag. It was like everyone assumed she knew what it was and how to care for it. She said what hospitals need are signs everywhere that say, “Communication and Compassion” to keep at the forefront of everyone’s mind that although we deal with the same situations everyday, this is the first time many  patients have been exposed to the particulars of their situation. They are scared and hungry for information on how to move forward. She said “Location, Location, Location!” is to real estate what “Communication, Communication, Communication!” should be to healthcare. She couldn’t be more right.

More than just for our benefit, engaging patients in a live conversation about what we can do better fulfills a need for them to help make the process better for others. It can play an important role in their full recovery, especially in their emotional healing. The benefits flow both ways, to the patient for allowing them the opportunity to be a part of a positive change and right back  to the caregivers and hospital leaders in free jewels of advice.

We don’t need consultants to tell us these things, to keep us on the right track in terms of what really matters to patients. Patients themselves are more than willing to share exactly what matters to them, if we only we make it a priority to ask, listen, and act.

What do you think? Leave a comment below!

 

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