We used our PatientConnectTM segmentation tool to explore how Canadians’ social values are shaping their behaviour in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Social change is making trust a vital ingredient in effective care
While there was no one clear answer, most of the discussions boiled down to one simple imperative: humanizing healthcare. One powerful trust-building practice is to simply be empathic in engaging with people. Instead of focusing simply on behaviour – whether patients have done as they were told – it can make a big difference to ask people about aspects of their lives that make compliance difficult. Can they afford the prescription? Do they have trouble finding transportation to their appointments? What worries them most about their diagnosis or health status?
This kind of empathic conversation can also lead care providers to develop a deeper understanding of what patients know about their own health and care, what they’re unsure about, and what they might fear or resist. It’s common for physicians to overestimate patients’ understanding of their own health challenges and care programs; talking openly can reveal important gaps.
Sometimes technology can help. Many patients have experienced the frustration of explaining the history of a condition to their family doctor, then being referred to a specialist, and having to begin the whole story from scratch. This is more than an inconvenience; it makes the process feel untrustworthy, even if each individual in the process seems to be doing their best. Technology can help keep care providers better informed, and make patients feel better understood.
Of course, technology can be a double-edged sword. With more Canadians developing justifiable concerns about the use of their personal data, it’s vital that healthcare providers – whether they’re governments, businesses or others – hold themselves to an exceptionally high standard when it comes to data management. They also need to be totally clear about why and how they’re using patients’ data. Every aspect of the patient relationship has the potential to build or erode trust.
Working with the grain of social change
While this kind of relationship-building comes naturally to some physicians, others may feel they simply don’t have time to have wide-ranging discussions with patients about opinions and preferences that might not be relevant to the situation at hand. There’s no doubt that time is at a premium in most doctors’ offices – but giving patients a quick set of instructions, however sound, and sending them on their way is a false economy. Trust takes time to build; but once it’s in place, it’s a strong and resilient resource that benefits everyone involved. Social change is unlikely to move backward; instead of waiting for a time of greater deference and less questioning to return, many physicians are finding ways to deliver excellent, trust-powered care to patients who are more autonomous and self-directed than ever.