Wanted: A New Relationship Based on Empathy

Patients are seeking a new relationship with their doctors and other health providers and what they want is … empathy, according to the renowned healthcare provider organization Cleveland Clinic, which just concluded its 6th annual summit on patient empathy, experience and innovation.

Thousands of healthcare leaders, researchers, clinicians and advocates gathered in Cleveland to focus on “how organizations around the world strive to deliver the best clinical, physical and emotional experience to patients and families.” An untold and undoubtedly even larger audience followed the proceedings online.

Numerous innovations in patient experience were on the agenda, including patient-centered care models, communication techniques, plans for educating caregivers, as well as uses for wearable devices, data-rich websites, and mobile apps.

Don’t be misled by the trendiness of the buzzwords. This was not just a gathering to talk about new tricks and new treatments.

Christy Dempsey, chief nursing officer at healthcare consultancy Press Ganey captured the spirit of the event in her address to the audience, saying “[i]t is no longer OK to be just a great clinician, and, “I want you to take a minute and remember that your patients are scared.”

Dempsey’s words support the logic behind University of Indiana Medical School professor Dr. Richard Frankel’s advocacy for better doctor communication, which he spoke about in Cleveland. Frankel recently told a University of Indiana publication that “There now are a number of studies and systematic reviews that show the positive effects of improved communication on patients’ biomedical as well as psychosocial health outcomes.”

Bedside manner, or examining room manner, provides the iconic image of the doctor-patient relationship. But of course the relationship starts even before the patient arrives. It begins with the seemingly innocuous but routinely stressful task of scheduling an appointment. Thanks to creative uses of digital technology, and the talent and innovative spirit of key staff in healthcare provider offices, there are ways to make the process simpler and easier for patients. And it keeps getting better.

The innovations Everseat has developed are very much a part of the push for empathy in the doctor-patient relationship. It all starts with a hassle-free system for setting up a convenient time to see the doctor as soon as possible. When beginning a relationship as important as this one, who wants to get off on the wrong foot?