Today’s consumer wants to feel that she is an equal partner in her care. Unlike our parent’s generation, where providers did things to and for the patient, today’s consumer wants an active role. In addition to the partnership, the consumer is acutely attuned to the relationship between the provider and staff. When positive, supportive and collegial, the patient feels more confident that everyone is on the same page, with shared goals.
I had two appointments today and emerged feeling so good about the care I’m getting. This morning I met with my doctor. Not only had he heard that I had a tough time with the first chemo treatment but he apologized almost instantly. “I should have prepared you better. I’m so sorry.” What a humble guy. I love that he did that. I feel like I’m part of the team and we’re working stuff out together. He warned me that he’ll be out of town for the weekend but reassured me that that the other specialists would be familiar with my case and would be available if I needed anything. I love that too. It may sound like a no-brainer that when one doctor is gone another covers for him, but hearing his plans to be gone and being told that the other doctors know about my case is really reassuring. Once again, he made me feel that I was in good hands.
You know Kris, today my doctor was an hour and a half behind schedule, but when he comes into the office and closes the door, I feel like I’m the only person that matters. He must have asked me three times if I had any other symptoms, any other concerns or needs.
Last week one of the x-ray techs had asked me how I liked working with my doctor. I said I loved working with him. I had said, “I don’t know what it’s like to work under him but he’s terrific with patients.” The tech responded, “Oh he’s a treasure. Everyone loves working with him.” When I shared this with my doctor during my time with him, his face reddened and he shook his head, chuckling and said, “I’m going to have to send more flowers out to my employees.” It is so evident that he treats his staff with the same level of respect he shows me as a patient.
By the way, we made three changes for tomorrow to manage my pain during the chemo. First, I’ll pre-medicate. Second, we won’t add more fluid after the first hour. And third, he’s prescribed an oral bladder anesthetic. I feel so much better knowing that they are working to control my pain during this process. I’m not dreading it nearly as much especially since I have at least four more rounds.
These comments by Elizabeth opened the door to three important elements needed in building patient trust; one, the physician managed the patient expectations about the fact that he would be out of town, but offered reassurance that Elizabeth would be in competent hands in his absence. Second, Elizabeth’s experiences demonstrates how important it is for both the staff and physicians to speak positively about one another and third, the alternate approach to pain management demonstrates the importance of listening to and engaging the patient in the care plan. In this case, Elizabeth’s confidence and trust is growing with each encounter. She expressed her sense of reassurance as a result of the physician’s time and attention during the office encounter as well as in arranging coverage. She also said that she feels like she is a partner with her physician and that they are working as a team. No one wants to face a challenge like cancer alone. By engaging with Elizabeth during the office visits, the doctor is elevating her sense of trust and confidence, helping her to feel as though he is taking this journey with her.