by John Minahan, CEO of Mindful Health Solutions
At Mindful Health Solutions, we use the term “patients first” often, but what do we mean when we say it? What does it stand for? Why do we even say it to begin with?
Why do we say “Patients First”?
First, we do not say it to remind the providers. Providers already understand how important the patient experience is. Rather, we say “Patients First” for everyone else involved in healthcare, from the people working at the front desk to company executives.
Many people who work in the healthcare industry lack the understanding of how they, themselves, affect patient experience or outcomes. No matter how wonderful a doctor is, the patient experience is not limited to just the time the patient spends with the doctor. The patient experience starts with the first phone call and ends with the final bill. One way to help increase this understanding is by adopting the Patients First mentality.
Patient vs. Customer
Before one can adopt this mentality, however, one must understand an important distinction. When I first entered the healthcare industry, I did not understand the fundamental difference between a patient and a customer. If I did not understand the difference, then it is more than likely that most non-clinical people do not understand the difference as well. So, let’s break it down.
A customer is a consumer of goods and services. They choose to be a customer. The word patient means “one who suffers.” A patient is someone who is suffering. The difference is that a customer chooses to be a consumer. On the other hand, a patient does not have a choice; they are suffering.
It is the difference between having a choice and not having a choice that makes the patient’s experience significantly different than the consumer’s. Because these experiences are so different, we have to structure them differently. In order to structure a successful patient experience, one must have the Patients First mentality.
When patients aren’t prioritized
Unfortunately, not all healthcare companies have adopted this mentality yet. The most evident lack of a Patients First mentality within a healthcare company is the failure to understand the workflow from a patient’s perspective.
Companies create processes that benefit the company. Patients are sent to a website and have pages of questions to complete. They are given form after form to complete and text after text to respond to. Sometimes they are only given a single phone number, and it is impossible to talk to a human when they need help. They take time out of their schedules for appointments but end up waiting for a doctor for an hour. Is this helpful to the patient? Or is it helpful in the name of corporate efficiency?
How we practice “Patients First”
At Mindful Health Solutions, we work hard to develop processes throughout our organization that ensure our patients have the best possible experience. However, for Patients First to work, you need two things. The first is for employees to have empathy and understanding to see the issues from the patient’s perspective. And the second is that employees need to feel empowered to make the right decision for the patient.
Patient centered care requires an organizational culture that encourages employees to be inquisitive and feel empowered to make decisions on their own. In every situation where a decision has to be made, we encourage the employee to choose what is best for the patient. This is the true Patients First mentality.
Today, healthcare companies think technology is the answer to better patient outcomes. They prioritize scale and efficiency. I agree with this to a point because companies must also think about the patient experience. One must consider how the company’s path for the patient impacts the patient’s outcome. Can you really take someone who is suffering and remove the human interactions with algorithms? We don’t think so. Putting patients first is always the best way to run a healthcare company.