Years ago I was working with a great mentor who opened my eyes to a common flaw in our thinking. He would poke fun at a common line we use in healthcare all the time. He’d roll his eyes and sarcastically say, “We have to educate the patients.” Then he’d go on to explain that most of the time when we use that term, it was not a patient-centered form of education. It was often an arrogant, holier than thou explanation of how we do things around here – often a provider-centric process or policy.
We can get pretty set in our ways with systems and processes. And when patients complain or question certain processes and systems, it’s easy to fall into an “educator” mode where you explain why it’s done that way. But wait! Maybe your explanation does nothing to improve the patient experience. Maybe the patient is telling you something of value, but you don’t hear because it’s always been done this way.
Real patient education – about the things that improve their lives is invaluable. But be careful of what you call education. Sometimes it isn’t education at all. It’s simply explaining why we do things to our own advantage. Listen for the cues. The next time someone says, “We need to educate the patients,” ask yourself if it’s really about explaining why we do things that have nothing to do with anything other than our own convenience.