I thought healthcare was supposed to be about you and me……

Hands up if you are a clinician.

How about a medical researcher or in academia? What about if you are working in healthcare?

Why do I ask? Well I just had something of a ‘lights on’ moment. I was watching a great presentation about health literacy from a very prominent and thoughtful clinician and researcher. She had a great presentation – very thought-provoking and also insightful – a great combination.

But listening to her – and let me say that she really ‘get’s this stuff’ that’s clear. But. She get’s it as a clinician. The way she spoke, the terms she used, and the research driven, data based approach to things made it clear to me that one of the biggest issues we have is that healthcare is more about the science and the healthcare practitioners than it is about you and me.

The big debates. Key issues and questions all led by industry insiders. naturally enough taking a science based approach. Where is the expert input from you and me?

She gave an interesting example: ‘Take 1 tablet a day’. Sounds like a very simple instruction, yet when they researched how these instructions were actually written in pharmacies across the US they came up with 53 different ways to issue this guidance. And it’s a simple instruction.

What about, ‘Take 2 tablets twice a day’. I bet we’ve all seen that. But I must admit I need to ask for clarity on what that actually means. Is that 2 tablets a day or 4?

I know. For clinicians it is so obvious, but for us poor sick consumers it needs clarification.

But the really troubling part was that I felt like it was my fault. My health literacy was low. I must be a bit thick. There is a real need to educate patients. And that’s why I said that healthcare is supposed to be for you and me.

Message need to be not only transmitted but also received and understood and clearly many clinicians and practitioners are great at delivering messages but many are simply not received and understood. And this is the fault of the practitioners not the patients.

We need to turn the system around and talk to people as people. Take away the jargon, focus on what is important to the patient in language that they will understand and can agree to. It sounds all so simple, but the reality is that the healthcare system is simply not patient focused.

Another good example came from a hospital CEO who spoke about a patient almost well enough to go home. Just a few more things to do on Friday, and the patient can go home on Monday. Sound familiar? Why not go home on Saturday. Well, his point was that doctors and other key stakeholders don’t always work on the weekend so when they are back to work on Monday morning the patient can be discharged.

And I thought healthcare was supposed to be patient centric.

Finding oneself on the receiving end of healthcare is an unnerving and disorientating place to be. And it’s hard enough to navigate around the system when you are feeling well, but clearly when you are sick it all seems to happen in a haze. Many hospitals and healthcare centres are trying to focus on the customer, to engineer a better patient experience and to try to walk in the patients shoes, but there really is a long way to go.

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