Danny Lieberman, founder of Pathcare (www.pathcare.co) the private social network for doctors and patients takes a page out of the sales and marketing playbook and shows how to improve doctor-patient relationships, improve health outcomes and increase practice revenue.
In a world where competition from the big healthcare providers erodes market share of independent practioners, depresses service levels and increases costs, and where government regulation tramples the small independent physician, the key is not big healthcare – the key is smart healthcare.
Patients with chronic illnesses whose doctors communicate well, treat them fairly and respectfully, and have more contact with them outside of office visits are more involved in their health care than are patients whose doctors lack these behaviors.
The researchers looked at four factors: the quality of the patient-physician relationship, including how well patients felt their doctors communicated with them; how much respect and fairness patients felt they received; the involvement of the patient in setting treatment goals; and the frequency of any patient-physician communications outside of the office setting, such as email or phone calls. Each of these factors was associated with greater patient engagement, with the exception of involvement in the setting of treatment goals.
The quality of the physician-patient relationship had the greatest effect on patient engagement: a one unit increase in the measurement of the quality of interpersonal exchanges led to an almost 10 unit increase in the level of activation by the patient. Patients with higher scores were more likely to monitor their blood pressure, exercise five days a week and adhere to medication regimens, among other healthy behaviors.
Our oldest did her PhD and is teaching. Her younger brother finished a Columbia MBA and is software development lead in a small startup.
We’re proud of our kids and my wife still remembers that when she was pregnant, her physician looked like a movie star.
I don’t think that we can prove that there is a correlation between their academic achievements and the quality of pre-natal care, but my wife and her OB/GYN specialist in Beverly Hills had a great doctor-patient relationship. There was no question of her not listening to the doctor. Her compliance was a given.
My wife felt secure with her physician and trusted him – the fact that he bore a remarkable resemblance to Robert Redford certainly did not hurt the quality of the doctor-patient relationship and for sure was part of the product that we and (or at least my wife) were buying.
The doctor-patient relationship is a key part of healthcare product management
Good products have a number of common attributes – they are aesthetically pleasing, understandable, easy to use, reliable, make the customer happy and have a price the customer can afford.
When you have a good product, its easy to sell.
From the perspective of any healthcare provider, whether a large HMO or an independent private primary care physician, or a physiotherapist, the quality of the doctor-patient relationship is a central part of the healthcare product.
Product management in the healthcare context is a combination of delivering a high-quality doctor-patient relationship that guides decision making and successful execution of the therapeutic plan in order to heal the patient. (euphemistically called “Healthcare outcome”).
The interaction between patient and physician is a special relationship.
A SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP
The relationship between doctors and their patients has received philosophical, sociological, and literary attention since Hippocrates, and is the subject of some 8,000 articles, monographs, chapters, and books in the modern medical literature. A robust science of the doctor–patient encounter and relationship can guide decision making in health care plans. We know much about the average doctor’s skills and knowledge in this area, and how to teach doctors to relate more effectively and efficiently.
The medical interview is the major medium of health care. Most of the medical encounter is spent in discussion between practitioner and patient. The Doctor–Patient Relationship Susan Dorr Goold, and Mack Lipkin, Jr
Better quality doctor-patient relationships result in higher patient trust and satisfaction with the healthcare “product”. Better customer satisfaction means more patients and more revenue.
Quality not quantity is what counts in the physician-patient relationship and as any patient will attest, the actual time a doctor spends with a patient is less important than focus and being accurately heard.
Clearly, it’s win-win for a doctor and patient to conduct a highly-effective doctor-patient relationship – since it saves time for the doctor and increases patient trust and confidence in the plan. Better confidence and trust means higher compliance and higher compliance translates into “better outcomes”.
How do we measure the effectiveness of the doctor-patient relationship?
There are 4 quality attributes in the doctor-patient relationship:
- The patient feels that they are the focus of the doctor’s attention
- The patient feels that the doctor is listening carefully
- The doctor involves patients in development of the treatment plan
- The doctor solicits the patients own explanation for their issue.
How can you sell your product quickly, efficiently and profitably through all the regulatory and business hurdles that stand in your way ?
At the end of the day, the doctor-patient relationship is only part of the product that the healthcare provider is selling the patient. A successful healthcare outcome request two things:
- A sales value proposition (SVP) for the patient/caregiver
- Identifying and selling to the decision maker
The sales value proposition in healthcare
Like any other sales value proposition, the options for a therapeutic plan that the doctor presents to the patient is a function of the diagnosis (of customer requirements), probability of success (of implementation) and cost.
Sell to the decision maker
The best therapeutic plan will not sell, if you are selling it to the wrong person.
A doctor needs to properly identify the key decision maker. If the caregiver is a son-in-law who calls the shots on treatment, then the son-in-law has to be sold. If it is the patient herself, then you must talk to and sell directly to the patient herself.
Whoever the decision maker is, your sales value proposition (“SVP”) must appeal to both the patient and the decision maker that you are trying to reach.
There is no point in selling a caregiver on the plan, if the patient disagrees and will not comply.
With a good doctor-patient relationship, then there is trust and if there is trust, the decisions made by patient and caregiver are almost always centered around two issues – probability of success and costs.
These are the only two elements every patient wants to hear.
If you tie these benefits to your “SVP” you will get a positive response from the patient and the caregiver.
If you talk about medical research, clinical successes reported in the literature and experimental treatments without relating to probibility of success and cost then you will fail.
Treating patients is a lot like product management and sales.
You need a solid product a solid sales value proposition and you need to sell to the right decision maker.
A key component in the healthcare product is the doctor-patient relationship since it drives trust and with trust, patients and caregivers will accept the doctors recommendation for the therapeutic plan and will be more likely to comply.
A high quality ongoing doctor-patient relationship and trustful communications is therefore, the best and (probably cheapest) way for ensuring successful plans and healthier patients!.
- Just between us - Private messaging 1 on 1, group message from doctor to patients.
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