In today’s fast-paced, on-demand culture – convenience has become key to just about everything. However, the time saved through resources like ride-sharing apps and meal delivery services often causes consumers to overlook the quality of the product they are receiving. Sure, you were able to forego a trip to the grocery store after work by ordering takeout, but tomorrow, the refrigerator will still be empty, and you’ll be back to square one.
Unfortunately, this “quick-fix” mentality extends to how healthcare is delivered. In the US, 13-16 minutes is the most common period of time that physicians spend actually interacting with a patient. While this might allow for a brief discussion surrounding the presenting ailment, it isn’t enough to delve into the how and why of the patient’s health symptoms or conditions. Shorter doctor visits may drive volume and revenue for health systems, but the majority of those brief visits fail to address the root cause of the patient’s health problems; which could cost patients both monetarily, and in the quality of their life down the line.
The only way to make patient-centered healthcare a reality is by providing clinicians with the resources to make building relationships with patients the top priority. And, employer-provided healthcare is doing just that with onsite and near site health clinics that allow for ongoing patient and clinician engagement.
Instruction vs. Guidance
In many scenarios, the most that a patient can glean from a rushed, frantic doctor visit is a short list of technical instructions surrounding medication, or a high-level overview of general lifestyle changes. These types of discussions tend to minimise the role of the patient in their own healthcare journey.
In order to empower patients to optimise their well-being, clinicians should view themselves more as a coach, and less as a “healthcare provider.” Instead of directing and instructing, a coach approaches the patient from a holistic perspective, seeking a deep understanding of the whole person for better outcomes in both the near and far term.
A large part of this patient empowerment stems from continuous health coaching conversations. By lengthening appointment times, onsite and near site health clinics provide the environment necessary to address the root cause of poor health.
With more time in the schedule, health coaches can follow up with patients via multiple channels, helping them stay on track with established health goals and remind them to take proactive and preventative measures such as routine testing and vaccinations.
Wellness must be a fluid, ongoing aspect of every person’s life, which is why a health coach’s guidance should extend beyond the four walls of a doctor’s office, and create a collaborative, long-term path toward change.
Reading Between the Lines
A patient’s health is often dictated by social determinants of health, including their education, income, access to transportation, employment, and family situations. According to a recent study, although a majority of physicians in the US agree that being able to assist in managing their patients’ social determinants of health would benefit their patients’ overall well-being, they feel it’s not their responsibility to provide this assistance. This mindset may largely be attributed to the ever-present fee-for-service models that encourage stacked calendars and reactive care – which does not support the mentality that a health coach needs to succeed.
Thankfully, the “safe space” fostered by onsite and near site employer clinics allows health coaches to prioritise building strong relationships with the employees they serve, enabling them to uncover the social determinants of health at hand. We need to understand why patients make the choices they make before jumping into their clinical needs.
In the workplace, you can’t slap a band aide on an ongoing business problem and consider it fixed – and the same goes for healthcare. That’s why providers must take the time to truly assess the patient’s understanding of their own wellbeing, and coach them through conquering their unique healthcare journey.
The healthcare system in the US today is undergoing an enormous change, and it’s also facing intense challenges and systemic bottlenecks. However, we see onsite healthcare as a real and viable solution that allows clinicians to put patients first, and understand their “whys.” If clinicians in traditional healthcare settings were able to adopt more coaching techniques like those in onsite clinics, we just might be able to help more patients make long-lasting changes to their health and wellbeing.