Haircuts to health care: Highlighting the patient’s role in their own care

Have you ever received a haircut without first telling the stylist what you want your hair to look like?

Probably not. And why? Because the outcome would likely be less than desirable.

While haircuts and health care are entirely different, they share commonality: participation from the client or patient greatly increases positive outcomes and, in turn, satisfaction.

The health care process is often complex and multifaceted, and it’s important to remember that the patient has a part to play in their own care, says Kathy Lee-Son, MD, MHSc, pediatric nephrologist. 

“When you communicate effectively, you’re able to help the patient express their medical concerns,” says Lee-Son. “You then begin to see this partnership form that helpyou develop an adequate, meaningful care management plan.” 

Kathy Lee-Son, MD, MHSc

The opportunity to ask

Among the many communication skills taught in the Provider Communication Program, Lee-Son says that setting a patient’s agenda is one of the most useful for her.

The Provider Communication Program—now offering virtual workshops through February—helps providers improve their communication skills and is available to all physicians, APPs, PAs, and ARNPs within UI Health Care. Sign-up today!

For example, giving the patient and their family an opportunity to ask questions is an important part of the agenda-setting process taught in the program.

During a visit with parents and a child who had only one kidney, Lee-Son saw firsthand the importance of allowing patients to ask questions.

“I made some assumptions that they already knew something about the kidneys,” she says. “Before they left, I asked if they had any questions, and one of the parents said, ‘What does the kidney do?’”

For Lee-Son, the interaction served as a reminder about incorrect assumptions. If Lee-Son had not provided the parents an opportunity to ask questions, they may have left the clinic without understanding what was happening with their child’s care.

The program uses a combination of small- and large-group scenarios, as well as patient simulations, to educate providers on communication techniques like agenda-setting, managing patient expectations, closing out a visit, and more.

We can all improve

According to Lee-Son, one of the most beneficial parts of the training was that she experienced it alongside her peers.

“Hearing different providers from different departments experience very similar issues to my own helped me,” she says. “It put in perspective why it’s so important to communicate effectively. Communication is something we can all improve, because we can get so busy and can sometimes overlook very fundamental things.”

Through hands-on training facilitated by providers from across UI Health Care, the Provider Communication Program helps hone the communication skills needed to make the health care process more enjoyable for both patients and providers.

“Being able to navigate and acknowledge the communication style or emotions of a particular patient or family member helps show your desire to reach out to them at their level and take them forward one little step at a time,” says Lee-Son. “Even if you learn just one thing from the training, you’ll be that much better for our patients.”

1 comment

  1. Thank you Dr. Lee-Son! This training is key. Patients and their loved ones tell us that consistent, effective communication among all members of the health care team is one of the biggest challenges they face while navigating their health care journey. Improving our communication skills is a great opportunity to improving the safety, quality, and experience of health care.

    As I think the class shares, evidence suggests that asking patients/family members “What questions do you have?” instead of “Do you have any questions?” elicits better feedback/information from patients and their loved ones in that it encourages them to ask questions, we expect them to have/ask questions, etc.

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