Rediscovering the human touch in healthcare
SummaryThe landscape of our healthcare system is ever evolving. But it is under threat from the diminishing time allowances our healthcare professionals (HCPs) have to spend with each patient. Brought on by increasing pressure to cut costs and meet higher patient quotas in our ageing and growing population, these measures are placing a burden of stress on the shoulders of our HCPs, many of whom are struggling under the weight of this pressure.
- Author Company: Page & Page and Partners
- Author Name: Kirstie Turner
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- Author Website: https://pageandpage.uk.com/
The landscape of our healthcare system is ever evolving. But it is under threat from the diminishing time allowances our healthcare professionals (HCPs) have to spend with each patient. Brought on by increasing pressure to cut costs and meet higher patient quotas in our ageing and growing population, these measures are placing a burden of stress on the shoulders of our HCPs, many of whom are struggling under the weight of this pressure. With little sign of these issues easing, we are at risk of seeing the human touch disappear from healthcare. We must find a way to empower HCPs to deliver supportive and compassionate care in an increasingly bureaucratic system.
Health is an immensely personal and emotional subject for many people. We all have a unique relationship with our own health; but it is arguably the most important aspect of life. Having your health threatened by something that feels out of your control can be a daunting prospect, and the spectrum of emotions we experience when sick or injured is vast: fear, vulnerability, sadness, uncertainty, anger and loneliness – to name a few. We never feel more delicately human than when we are struck down by illness or injury.
When experiencing this complex profusion of emotions, what we need most is compassionate, personalised care from another human being: a person who cares about and understands our unique situation. This need is juxtaposed against the loss of humanised healthcare, as HCPs feel pressured to forgo the ‘human’ aspect of interactions and simply focus on meeting the physical needs of the patient in quick, efficient interactions.
It’s important to remember that HCPs are acutely aware of the rollercoaster of emotions that patients experience. Even beyond that, it is why they do the job – to make a positive difference to patients’ lives. It isn’t an easy job; HCPs are overworked and underpaid in an industry that’s underfunded and overused (some would even say abused). They are often pushed to the limits of what they can cope with, as we have seen throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. But they continue to push through, for the sake of the patient.
While there is no magic wand that we can wave to make these challenges disappear, we do have the power to explore what can be done to remind HCPs of the difference they make to patients’ lives, to remind them why they chose this vocation and support them in finding ways to reconnect on a human level, against this pressured backdrop.
Moving the dial
The first step to providing this support is gaining a thorough understanding of the day-to-day challenges HCPs face and the small changes that could make a big difference to the HCP–patient relationship.
Communications professionals, as experts in building cohesive messages that weave different viewpoints into one narrative, are uniquely positioned to help HCPs see the world from their patients’ perspectives and take a step towards humanising this high-pressured environment. This can lead to a positive impact on both the patient’s experience and the HCP’s mental wellbeing.
As storytellers, communications professionals are adept at developing empathetic and engaging messages that humanise cold-hard facts. Communication needs to speak to the heart, rather than the mind, of the audience because humans are innately irrational beings. However much we may think we make our decisions based on facts, we actually choose the option that feels right, and then post-rationalise why we made that decision with seemingly logical explanations. By communicating through emotive stories, backed up by evidence and facts, we give the audience the opportunity to buy into the narrative, and then justify how they feel with the facts and details.
Research has shown that content that appeals to doctor’s emotion is 23% more likely to lead to action, than advertising that is driven just by rational facts. When you add in personalisation, this number rises again, leading to a 34% increase in likeliness to act on the content. It just goes to show, that we may think we are wholly rational creatures, but more often than not, we are rationalising a decision we have already made in the emotional part of our brain.
Simon Sinek’s apt quote – ‘people don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it,’ – highlights that we are motivated to change when we share a mission and vision with the people who are communicating with us. By crafting campaigns that put the HCP in the shoes of the patient, we enable them to connect on an emotional level and remind the HCPs that these are the individuals they are striving to help. Creating that emotional connection gives HCPs a sense of belonging – they are reminded that they are part of something special: changing patients’ lives.
Another pertinent ideology from Sinek is that ‘there are only two ways to influence human behaviour: you can manipulate it, or you can inspire it.’ By putting increasingly strict regulations and constraints on HCPs, from capping appointment times to unmanageable red tape and admin, we are trying to manipulate HCPs into behaving in a certain way. We are turning something innately human, our health, into something rigid, measured and one-size-fits-all. So instead, let’s choose to inspire behaviour change by creating powerful communication that ignites a drive towards personalised, compassionate care.
By harnessing the power of imaginative communication to build a narrative around patient stories, we can inspire our HCPs into action and help our healthcare system to rediscover the importance of the human touch.