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July 27, 2016

Keep the Humanity in Healthcare

Summary:

Some may think the majority of patients just want their symptom or disease treated. News flash — you're wrong.

Photo Courtesy of Andy De

A part of my life allowed me the privilege of treating nearly 10,000 individual patients. Their openness and trust let me partner with them, deciding on and helping enact a course of care, which often helped change lives.

We lived life together.

Owning a practice means more than just providing necessary healthcare — through ethical and legal means. It allowed me to bring out a greater level of transparency and humanity, while remaining professional. It taught me to always put on a happy face, especially in times of personal stress or upset. I learned to make that one patient in that one moment of time feel like the most important person in the world.

Some may think the majority of patients can’t tell the difference in care and just want their symptom or disease treated. News flash — you’re wrong.  

It may seem as though patients are just putting out their time and money, but really they are giving us a high level of trust and control. Depending on the person and problem, we can have significant influence over the course and quality of their lives, as well as the lives of those closely attached to them.

See also: Key Misconceptions on Health Insurance

Too often, we forget nine out of every 10 patients makes less than $33,000 in income (see below). Nearly 40% of patients carry medical-related debt, and one-third of those must choose between payment for that debt versus rent, housing or heat. Many of these cash-strapped individuals will only come in and choose to make health a priority within later, irreversible stages of chronic disease.

Most everyone knows our healthcare is in crisis. The solution appears clear: improve care quality, reduce cost, increase safety, grow healthier communities and deliver all this with greater consumer affordability. The advent of healthcare technology will certainly help make much of this possible.

But we must not make the mistake of thinking patients will have the same level of dedication to population health, wearables and medication adherence as we do. Patients care about themselves and those they love. They care about money and their financial future. They care about feeling good and avoiding pain — but the pain can be more than just their symptoms and condition.

Health payers acquired a longstanding, terrible reputation for not caring.  Many plan members, who suffer physically, emotionally and financially, felt as though they were treated like just another accounting line item, as if they were just commodities that made the business of healthcare payments go ’round.

We’re at a tipping point. As more risk shifts onto the shoulders of hospitals, providers and affordable care organizations (ACOs), we must not make the same mistakes. Tomorrow’s healthcare will involve and require patient compliance and participation to get the best results.

It is one thing to put technology in place that captures patient-generated health data, but it is quite another to show patients you care about the data. Patients deserve to feel the compassion, caring and humanity in our hearts and actions.

See also: Innovation: a Need for ‘Patient Urgency’

I’ve retired from practice, my career now shifting into the business side of healthcare. I am carefully seeking my next path for the right healthcare company, where I can blend my experience, talents, skills and years of front-line patient experience. The healthcare sector is a target-rich environment, whose underlying industries, more than ever, have a tremendous ability to shape the course and outcomes of human lives.

Technology, big data and Triple Aim aside, we must remember the human condition is more than just condition. It is a place where people reside because they often have lost hope and human support.

In the future of patient data, we must recognize that behind the numbers lives a human life and heart and the potential for physical and emotional improvement.

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About the Author

Steve Ambrose is a strategy and business development maverick, with a 20-plus-year career across several healthcare and technology industries. A well-connected team leader and polymath, his interests are in healthcare IT, population health, patient engagement, artificial intelligence, predictive analytics, claims and chronic disease.

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