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Why would I care what my patients think?

In 2011 I flew from Dunedin, New Zealand, with a colleague to visit a well-respected Primary Health Organization (PHO) in the northern part of the North Island. The CEO was interested in our software as a means to further engage their population in their health. The visit had gone well, until the organization’s Head of Clinical Governance (himself a physician) said out of the blue…

“Why would I care what my patients think?”

My colleague and I were too stunned to reply for several seconds. The gulf in philosophy between what we believe about best practices in treating patients and what this senior physician believed were so far apart as to render communication to be almost meaningless.

So why should you care what your patients think?

  • Because they are human beings, with hopes, fears and aspirations.
  • RQQMTMI7Z1Because it is their health, their family, their body, and their future.
  • Because patients who feel listened to are far more likely in return to listen to you and your advice.
  • Because aren’t you paid to listen to patients? Isn’t ‘S’ the first step of the SOAP method? A SOAP note is a documentation method employed by health care providers to create a patient’s chart.  There are four parts of a SOAP note: ‘Subjective, Objective, Assessment, and Plan.
  • Because study after study shows that engaged patients get better health outcomes than those who aren’t.

Since the meeting was clearly going nowhere with the attitude demonstrated by the Head of Clinical Governance, I have always regretted not having turned to the CEO to ask whether not caring about what their population of patients think was an official policy of the PHO itself. Since PHO’s in New Zealand are almost entirely government funded, with a mandate to improve the public health of their population, I think not.

Lifetime Health Diary is fortunate to work with a great number of medical professionals who are far-sighted, deeply concerned for their fellow human beings, and open to new ways to engage with patients and the population in general to maintain and improve health. We salute you, and encourage like-minded medical professionals to contact us if you would like to know more about how we can help your own population be engaged in their health.

May every medical professional follow your great example in caring about what your patients think as soon as possible. And for me, well, since that day in 2011 I have been far better prepared to answer that question!

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