Health Equity Starts with Listening
Health equity ensures everyone has equal access to affordable, quality healthcare regardless of biological and social markers. The U.S. healthcare system is an outlier regarding global health trends such as life expectancy, infant mortality, and maternal mortality rates. As health systems try to balance the cost, quality, and access to healthcare, all three elements are affected by how much patients can influence the care they receive. The rise of the patient partner is our most significant opportunity to close the health equity gap, and it all starts with listening.
Why Listening Matters
For patients to be engaged partners in their care, there must be trust between them and their providers. Providers need to create the time and space to listen.
“Modern medicine’s true healing potential depends on a resource that is being systematically depleted: the time and capacity to truly listen to patients, hear their stories, and learn not only what’s the matter with them but also what matters to them.” [Source: HBR]
Listening builds relationships by understanding how each patient experiences their illness or condition differently. It also helps doctors understand what patients want from their treatment plans so they can tailor their care accordingly.
The Cost of Misunderstandings
Patients who don’t understand what is happening to them are less likely to comply with treatment recommendations, which can make the difference between life and death. Misunderstandings also lead to higher costs: Patients who don’t understand why they are taking their medications may skip doses, leading to more hospitalizations and more expensive procedures down the road.
“Hospital care now makes up about 1/3rd of all health care spending in the U.S., and chronic illnesses are tied to more than 80% of hospital admissions…Today, health disparities cost the U.S. over $320 million per year and is expected to reach $1 trillion by 2040.” [Source: Deloitte]
The ability to listen is essential not just for patient safety but also for patients’ overall well-being. When a doctor listens well, it can make all the difference in how that person feels about their experience in the hospital. It also increases patient satisfaction scores — directly affecting insurance companies’ reimbursement rates.
Listening is a Part of the Healing
In healthcare, listening has as much power to heal as any medicine you prescribe.
When we listen to patients, we learn about their experiences with illness and treatment. This knowledge helps us better understand their needs and concerns and enables us to provide tailored care for them.
Listening also builds trust and strengthens the relationship between patient and provider — which is essential for good care because it helps ensure that both patient and provider buy into each other’s goals for treatment outcomes.
When patients feel heard by their providers, they’re more likely to follow their advice, adhere to treatment plans, and be satisfied with their care experience — which can help improve outcomes.
Healing the Healthcare System
Some think the health equity movement means providing access to medical care for disadvantaged people, but this is only one piece of the pie. To achieve true health equity, we must address the social determinants of health affecting a whole population. Through simple and small acts of listening, we can build a more trusting relationship with our patients and help them overcome their barriers to equity.
“Over the last two years, our research has allowed us to pinpoint how people want to make their health care better. They want a health care system that is affordable, dependable, gives them the personalized experience they need, and is easy to navigate — but also one that treats every person like a human being and with respect despite their social status, need, ability, age, race/ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or income.” [Source: USofCare]
Reimagining Personalized Medicine for All
At Health Evolve, we build patient-centered technologies at the intersection of care and culture. Global health equity is our primary focus, and the rise of the patient partner is our most significant opportunity to close the health equity gap.
Harnessing the right conversations between patients and providers will help improve health equity and access to care and reduce costs.
Patients want providers to want to listen. Listening builds trust, allowing patients to open up, share their stories, and feel understood. We can use patients’ stories to inform the design of the healthcare ecosystem and build the tools people need to support their health. By listening to patients, we can improve healthcare equity for everyone.
Our Health Culture Index is the first-ever measurement tool for health equity in care and culture. This global tool is designed to understand the patient value system – collecting patient stories and translating them into meaningful, measurable analytics.
If health equity in care and culture matters to you, contact us to find out how you can get involved and join our U.S. Beta launch of our Health Culture Index.