Building a Culture of Reassurance in Healthcare

Culture of ReassuranceBy: Jeff Cowart, MAH

Uncertainty reigns for both patients and physicians in the current healthcare environment.

For patients, uncertainty arrives by virtue of just becoming a patient – which suggests we’ve got medical concerns that need resolution. But, today’s environment only adds to the uncertainty as patients deal with new care continuum choices, narrowing networks, insurance and co-pay changes, ACOs, and more. For the past 10 years, Harris Interactive has asked consumers nationwide which industries they most trust. From 2012 to 2013, hospitals dropped 8 percentage points among that audience, settling in at a 28% trust rating. Health insurance companies lost 4 percentage points year over year, landing at a 7% trust rating for 2013.

For physicians, the uncertainty is fueled by the dramatic and disruptive changes in their practice lives and the new models of medicine, reimbursements, regulations, personal economics, and more. According to the most recent Physicians Foundation Survey of 13,575 physicians nationwide, 84% say the medical profession is in decline and 92% say they are unsure how they will fit into the healthcare system three to five years from now.

During a recent strategic planning retreat I attended, Dr. Alan Pitt, neuroradiologist, informaticist and self-described “nudge”, from Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, made the case that stronger commitment to a culture of reassurance should be high on the priority list for every company operating in the healthcare space. In fact, for many, it should be adopted as a defining strategic message to enage both the consumer and the physician.

“It’s not what we do, but rather why we do it that matters,” says Dr. Pitt. “Hospitals and healthcare providers are in a strong position to enable the growth of a culture of reassurance that would give everyone, from patients and their families to physicians and the entire team of caregivers, a higher level of confidence and comfort in a time of uncertainty.”

The first step is for hospitals and healthcare providers to recognize the idea that a culture of reassurance should be a critical plank in their overall strategic platform. Then, they should take a leadership role in a sustained engagement campaign around the idea. The goal is to draw everyone toward that still-burning ember of medicine as a noble and respected calling that solidly reaffirms the patient as the center of the purpose and the physician as the most important partner in new collaborative care models.

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