I love apps. I use them every day. At work, on my free time, to meditate, find a new restaurant or a stylish outfit. I know you do too. The possibilities for technology to assist you on your health journey are endless. Telemedicine apps are changing health care to be more convenient, less expensive and available to people who wouldn't normally be able to see a provider.
So I began to think. I used my meditation app and began to meditate. I wrote down ideas. I thought for years as I worked as a PA with my wonderful patients in my favorite underserved communities. During the same time, I started Shiny Healthy People, a resource on taking control of your health. I became a yoga as medicine teacher, I studied resilience at Harvard and earned a couple of nutrition certifications. I hosted meetups and supper clubs for like-minded health care professionals in my area. I grew my non-Western health care brain and when I was ready I returned to share with my people, my patients and anyone else that would listen.
Then it came to me. After 15 years in health care, 8 years of PA practice and over three decades of life, love and loss, I thought of the perfect app. I learned the tools to build the app and designed it myself. I ironed out all the kinks, sent it to beta testing and began to use it each and every time I encountered another human being. I know it's going to revolutionize medicine and fix our health care crisis. No doubt about it.
I know you'll want to download it. I know it will go viral. I thought about charging for it, but I believe in giving value away for free.
The app is called HC. Can you guess what that stands for?
I know. This is innovation beyond your wildest imagination. Some may say, revolutionary. I believe it may be. Can you dig it?
Seriously though, can you?
According to Matthew Lieberman, who wrote Social: Why Are Brains Are Wired To Connect, "being socially connected is our brain's lifelong passion." In November of 2013, a Wakefield Research Study done for Dignity Healthcare found that 87 percent of Americans found kindness by a physician as the most important factor when choosing a health care provider. This was more important than wait time for the first visit, distance from home and cost of care.
Discussing your health with someone you feel comfortable with is healing in itself. Human connection and kindness influences patients trust and how they perceive their health care providers. It also helps determine if they'll return to see that provider again. Think about it. Would you trust someone who was rude to you? Would you share your story with someone who didn't look you in the eye?
We've lost the heart of medicine. We've moved from a basic need to connect someone who understands the science to the business of medicine into a monster of an industry. When I go on interviews, we talk about how many patients I see in a day, how I bill, if I can be placed on a billboard for marketing. One of them actually brought in their CFO to "show me the money" based on productivity. There aren't any questions about my most inspiring patients, my bedside manner or how I approach a chronic disease.
So because of this industry, factory-like approach we have a crunch on time, which robs us from a human connection. I'm constantly reminding my colleagues that the industry exists because we let it. If we make sure we connect to our patients from the moment we enter the exam room and bring a calm, healing intention instead of rushed, chaotic energy, the system would have to shift. The consumer dictates the demand and right now our patients need us to listen, sympathize, guide and partner with them.
Medical schools used to teach students about empathy and authentic human connection. Part of the Hippocratic Oath says:
"I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon's knife or the chemist's drug."
Human connection requires you to slow down, listen and give your patients the time they deserve in order to feel they can trust you with their well-being. We, as health care providers, are here to encourage and empower patients to take control of their health. We can't do that in quick visits with little eye contact and one foot out the door.
Patients, I ask that you start expecting this. Ask your providers to listen to you and your story. You deserve it. See if your clinic has group or centering visits to connect to others with your condition. Reach out to your community and meet others with the same struggles; your peers may have a perspective or experience that could guide your approach in a different way.
We as caregivers and health care professionals must reevaluate our motivations and our intentions. If you're in it for the money or the prestige, please get out. But if you're in medicine to truly help others, to guide them in healing, to teach them the tools, then offer kindness and a patient ear before you start making changes in their medications or ordering more tests. I welcome you to use HC every opportunity you can.
Only then will we begin to slowly repair the health care system, one kind, sympathetic, compassionate human connection at a time.