Practice Marketing

Helping Patients Continue Treatment after Receiving Good News

Helping Patients Continue Treatment after Receiving Good News

Delivering good news to a patient is always a wonderful feeling for both the patient and the doctor. Knowing that you have the power to change someone’s life for the better is rewarding as it is a mutually beneficial experience. Yet, being a good doctor also involves being a good communicator and emphasizing shared decision making. It is your job to convince your patients to take an active role in their own health in order to ensure that their outcomes are optimal. What’s more, shared decision making recognizes interaction between you and a patient when it comes establishing medical decisions. You make decisions that are based on the patient’s best interest and available clinical evidence, while the patient makes decisions based on their individual goals and concerns. Therefore, you and your patients each play important roles in the process and you must be open to each other’s input.

Patient participation is key when it comes to medical decision making. The five most important elements associated with this concept are patient knowledge, patient encouragement by doctors, awareness of choice, patient role and responsibility and in the decision making process, as well as time. These five elements all overlap in that each one emphasizes certain goals that must be fulfilled by the patient in the decision making process. For instance, doctors encouraging patients to participate in their own treatment is crucial to their recovery and overall well-being. Recent studies reveal that when patients contribute to the decision making process, they achieve a better sense of personal control, great satisfaction with care, decreased vulnerability, faster recovery time, and most important, better health outcomes.

Like any good conversation, communication is a two-way street. Getting your patients to become more involved in their own care can help them to prevent resurfacing of pre-existing conditions and prevent the development of new medical conditions due to leniency. Yet, getting your patients to take accountability for their own health requires you to make the most out of your efforts. First and foremost, your patients must understand what they are being told. The information presented to them about their conditions and possible treatment plans must be clear, honest, accurate, and encouraging. Discuss each patient’s option with him or her and pay special attention to helping them fully understand how their decisions can impact their lives. Moreover, offer advice and guidance based on clinical evidence and decisions tailored to each patient’s specific needs and circumstances.

Every patient wants to get better; however, if you do not push them to take on an active role in their treatment, they will not be able see the full benefit of that particular treatment. For instance, emphasizing to a diabetic the importance of maintaining a healthy diet and exercising on a regular basis means that they become more aware and more involved in their own health. This way, they can check their glucose levels and know exactly what is going on with their body, without stressing. Once you have taken the time to explain a patient’s treatment options, set expectations and help them understand what is required of him or her. Furthermore, help them understand what outcome he or she should expect at the end of the treatment (based on their specific condition).

Patient responsibilities take on several different forms:

  • Responsibility to do something as part of one’s own health care (for instance, taking prescribed medications);
  • Responsibility to provide accurate and complete information that will help for one’s treatment and care (for instance, filling out medical related formularies and questionnaires)
  • Responsibility to do something for access to proper treatment (for instance, fasting before undergoing a type of surgery);
  • Responsibility to behave in a certain way for one’s own health (for instance, quitting smoking or maintaining a healthy weight);
  • Responsibility to meet proper standards of social behavior in association with health care services (for instance, not being late to medical appointments or not mistreating staff members);
  • Responsibility to avoid causing additional concerns or expenses in association with health care services (for instance, visiting the emergency department for a minor cut);
  • Responsibility to ask questions or acknowledge when information regarding a course of care decision is not fully understood;
  • Responsibility to follow the established rules and regulations in a healthcare setting

The rights and responsibilities of patients is an acknowledgement that also involves the transfer of power. Many of the rights and responsibilities given to patients by doctors are to help them become empowered and take on more self-control. At the same time, being entrusted with such power means patients need to give back by proving their roles in maintaining and managing their own health. As a doctor, it is recommended that you maximize patient participation in communication by positioning yourself at the same level as the patient and maintaining direct eye contact. Ensure that the surrounding environment is comfortable and the patient’s privacy is respected, especially when discussing sensitive and personal issues. Provide the most important information first and ask the patient if they have any questions or concerns. Avoid using medical jargon but rather use words that the patient will understand. Define unfamiliar words and confirm the patient understands by asking them open and direct questions. Sometimes, the most effective way of communicating with each patient is to use pictures, diagrams, or communication aids that will provide visual imagery. At the end of a consultation, summarize the information, make sure it is accessible and understandable, and ensure that the patient’s decisions are respected above all.

The National Committee for Quality Assurance, a nonprofit organization in the United States that works to improve quality of care provided by health care organizations, entails several measurements and assessments in determining how well patients are actively engaging in their own health. For instance, several organizations undertake patient surveys, asking whether doctors engage in shared decision making or provide them with the necessary support they require in order to manage their own conditions. More so, there are several other agreements that can be performed to measure how well health care organizations engage patients, that is, all the while recognizing patients’ full potential in managing their own health.

Patient activation refers to a patient’s knowledge, skills, and willingness to manage and maintain his or her own health. Patient engagement, on the other hand, is a more extensive term that combines patient activation with patient participation in the decision making process. Patient participation in treatment and health care is not a new area; however, it has become a necessity around the world. The modern world of healthcare is rather multifarious and many patients have a hard time fully obtaining, communicating, and understanding even the most basic health-related information. What’s more, many doctors fail to provide patients with the proper information that they need in order to make the best informed decisions regarding their own treatment and care. Even when they do receive specific and detailed information, some patients become very overwhelmed or lack the self-confidence to make their own decisions. Thus, by increasing health literacy, or understanding of medical conditions, both patients and doctors can meet each other’s requirements.

Helping patients continue treatment after receiving good news has been greatly associated with improved treatment outcomes. Such participation has shown significant improvement in several areas such as better control of diabetes, enhanced patient compliance with preventive actions, better physical functioning and mobility in rheumatic diseases, as well as improved health in patients with heart conditions. Moreover, emphasizing the importance of proper health care also motivates doctors, such as you, to continuously develop new tools and systems, as well as promote healthy habits that will help patients in their decision making process. With enhanced participation, patients can be more involved and happier with their health care decisions. They are more likely to follow recommended treatment plans, which in turn, can lead to better health outcomes.