Why the Patient Priority is How We All Win

I rounded on a patient today who is just itching to go home so that he will be able to come back to the hospital to see his fiance–who also is also in the hospital. She ended up in the hospital after he was admitted, for emergency surgery. They haven’t seen each other for over a week…each worried about the other, wondering how the other is doing, both feeling helpless.

He didn’t come out explicitly and say it, but stepping back it was clear what his priority was: he wanted to go home so that he could get back to see her. But she was here.  The work at that point became being able to connect the two, to bring his priority into the plan for the day.

Listening to the patient’s priority–really being able to identify and weed out from the rest of the conversation what is most important to them– and then working to do whatever it takes to meet that priority–that is our work. Yes, we must medically treat the patient, but a patient comes into a hospital wanting to get back to their LIFE, and our job is to help them do that. The sooner we can get them back to the things that matter most–in this case, seeing his finance–the sooner we will have really met the objective of what it means to care for patients.

Tony Slonim, CEO of Renown Health,  explains this concept in his recent Tedx talk.  He speaks to his experience as a young man with cancer:

“Finally…I know that for me during my cancer care, I had an amazing team, great colleagues, wonderful people–doctors, nurses, pharmacist, therapists, dietitians–who took really good care of me. They wanted me back to my physical health. But nobody actually ever asked me what I was concerned about. 

And sometimes when you are a young man with cancer,  what really matters is getting off the couch and being able to have a meal with your family…My team was really focused on the physical domain, but they completely left out my mind, my spirit, and my priorities.  And if we are going to restore people to health we need to think comprehensively about the way we approach them.”

When we listen to patients, identify their top priority, and then act on it, we win. We make a difference for them, number one. We also make a difference for ourselves, when we are able to see the impact of our work on someone’s life.  Lastly, and least important in my mind but it matters because it’s how we are measured–and paid for that matter– our patient experience scores will go up. Accomplishing a patient’s priority is what tips patients to give 10’s verses an “It was good” 8. Accomplishing a patient priority is the “Wow!”; the “They were amazing!” tipping point.

There is no magic formula to identifying a patient’s priority. It can be as simple as asking, “What’s most important to you today?” or “What’s on your mind?”

No one loses when we can help a patient accomplish their priority for the day. Everyone wins.

How about you? Have you ever been able to help a patient accomplish their priority for the day?  Have you  been a patient and a caregiver helped you to accomplish something that was really important you? I’d love to hear about it! Leave a comment below!

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