If you read part I of this blog series, “7 Things I Wish My Doctor Would Do”, we’ve already met! I’ve worked in the healthcare industry for years and have a pretty good idea of what patients want and need out of their healthcare provider.
If you missed it, you can click here to read part I. Otherwise, read on to see 3 more things I wish my doctor would do.
5. Wear a name tag. Care team names matter.
You know my name because you’re looking at my chart. I would like to know yours as well. You would be surprised how many patients don’t know their provider’s name, particularly if they come in for a sick visit and don’t see their usual doctor. They often describe you by what you look like. And your patients definitely don’t know your nurse, medical assistant, or receptionist’s name unless you have made it part of your workflow to introduce at every visit and/or wear a name tag.
Even the person who waits on me at Subway wears a name tag and I can call him/her by name if need be. But, I don’t usually get introduced by name to the person who weighs me and asks me if I smoke. That’s weird!
I want to have a relationship with you. You know really vulnerable information about my sex life and my eating habits and my mental health. I want to know your name so I can connect with you on a human level.
Further, it really makes a difference to me when you remember stuff about me. Details as simple as my child’s or husband’s name, that last time I was here I was complaining about my boss… write that down somewhere you can easily see it when you are prepping my chart for the next visit. Then ask me about it! It makes me feel important. And when I think I’m important to you, I am more likely to do what you say.
6. Start with why.
If you haven’t seen the Simon Sinek TED Talk, stop what you are doing right now and watch it. I’ve even included a link here so that you can do that easily! https://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action
Good, you’ve watched it. Now, remember that Maya Angelou quote?
“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Remember that brilliant piece of truth? Yes, that one! I may not remember or understand exactly what you say during our visit, but I will remember if you explain the “why” to me and make me feel like you care about me.
Take this cartoon as an example:
Essentially this translates to, “Grandma, why have you been in the kitchen for so long?” To which her response is, “The doctor told me I have to watch my sugar. So far it hasn’t moved.”
What I wish my doctor would do is tell me why my care plan is important. It doesn’t matter if you give me the best, evidence-based patient instructions on earth and prescribe me the best medicine. If you don’t help me understand why it’s important, I’m much less likely to do it. Does this take a little more time? Yes. However, think of it as an investment because I’m much less likely to come back in 3 months, 6 months, or a year having not done what you asked and further negatively impacted my health.
7. Don’t assume I want or need a follow-up visit. But, DO follow up with me after my visit somehow.
I wish my doctor would call me or text me to let me know next steps after my visit. Whether it’s after receiving my lab results or following up on specialist visit consult notes, I want to know you care.
In particular, primary care providers seem to fall into one of two camps:
- Those who want to see you face to face for every conversation, and
- Those who don’t really want to see you unless the communication absolutely MUST happen face to face.
I prefer those in the latter camp.
But lots and lots of primary care providers believe that if they have you schedule a follow-up appointment, you will do all the things before that appointment because keeping that appointment and doing the things are important to you. I have bad news for them. It doesn’t usually work that way (see #6 above).
My time is valuable. I don’t have time to slog to your office every time I have a question. Let’s have a quick phone chat (someone on your care team is just fine as long as they can quickly turn around responses to my questions). Even better, send a text message to make sure we are on the same page as the care plan evolves.
Let me share an example. A few years ago, I started having some weird knee pain and discomfort. It wasn’t excruciating, but it was uncomfortable and impacting my ability to do yoga, an important part of my mental and physical health self-care. I self-diagnosed (never a good idea) as possibly having torn my meniscus. I went to my primary care provider and they had an appointment for me on the same day, which was awesome. My doctor did some tests and recommended an x-ray, physical therapy, and a referral to the orthopedic surgeon. He was great and attentive.
Want to guess how many of those care plan action items I followed up on? One. I went and got the x-ray. It found nothing. My dad is a physical therapist, so I asked him for some exercises, but I never did any of those either. Then, my knee got better. I started yoga again and it hasn’t bothered me since. Thank goodness they didn’t schedule me a follow-up visit because I probably wouldn’t have gone. A simple phone call from the medical assistant to check in on me a few weeks later would have been perfect. But that phone call never came. As much I love that doctor and had a great visit with him to work up my problem, ultimately it didn’t seem like he really cared that much about my knee. What happens after the visit matters too.
I also have hypothyroidism and have been on Synthroid 50 mcg for years. My primary care provider whom I love (see knee guy above) left the practice so I decided to transition to a new practice. I explained my thyroid issue and asked for brand medically necessary medicine as that is what I had always taken. My new primary care provider ordered my thyroid labs and some regular preventive testing, including a lipid panel. Guess what? When I went to get labs the next day, I was supposed to be fasting but no one told me that. When I went to pick up my medication, it was generic. Again, I had a great visit with the provider. She was attentive and asked questions. But the post-visit was sloppy.
You know what I wish my doctor would do? Ask me if I got my medicine. Ask me why I didn’t do the things you asked me to if a reasonable amount of time goes by and you still have no results. Make sure you connect the care plan to the time I’m taking out of my day to do the things. And, don’t assume I want to do it in a face-to-face visit—ask me instead. That tells me that you care!
Contact Providertech today to see how automated technology can help your care team improve the patient experience through personalized communication.