LAS VEGAS — Designing a better patient-doctor experience starts with what not to say.
One of those things is “at least.”
That was the message from Dr. Rasu Shrestha, chief innovation officer at UPMC and EVP at UPMC Enterprises, and Santosh Mohan, head of More Disruption Please Labs at athenahealth, at HIMSS on Wednesday in a talk on patient engagement.
Both stressed the importance of doctor empathy — as opposed to sympathy — when talking to patients.
That means when you see someone stuck in a hole, for example, you don’t say “at least the sun is shining.”
“Climb in the hole and never say ‘at least,’" a silver-linings phrase that does not fuel connection to the patient, Shrestha said.
“We’re typing notes into the EMR, we’re charging, we’re billing … Are we really listening to our patients?,” Shrestha asked the audience.
Physicians believe they're listening, but technology and old toolsets are failing them, he said.
Lack of connection with patients is bad for care, but also impacts the bottom line. For example, Shrestha said there is hard evidence that a patient who feels disrespected is less likely to adhere to their medication regimen.
While some patients use the old "one primary care doc for life" model, a new generation relies on “Dr. Google” and will vote with their feet. “It’s important to involve them because at the end of the day, if we are labeling them as non-compliant, that finger is pointing right back at us,” he said.
The onus is on the physician and system to make things right, they said.
Mohan described a case study to cut use of pricey anesthesia for young patients who need MRIs. Nearly 80% of children need anesthesia because the machines seem scary, leading to potential delays and costs.
By working with children to design the experience as a camping trip or another adventure, some hospital systems are cutting costs, reducing medication and seeing fewer side effects.
He echoed the ban on the "look at the bright side" sympathy model.