People desire to be heard. This is more so the case when they are navigating the complexities of a health ecosystem in the United States. The key question is how do you measure the impact of listening. Keep in mind that “you” is not limited to clinicians or administrative healthcare workers. Consider expanding it to include any professional who is responsible for improving the health of individuals and communities.
Our collective ability to effectively measure the impact of listening is a critical step in closing the health equity gap. Take a moment to reflect on the following questions:
- What outcome(s) are you aiming towards?
- Do you understand what is most important to those you are serving?
- Are there certain voices “missing” from the conversations, data or room where decisions are taking place?
If any of the three questions give you pause, then I encourage you to evaluate why. Listening does have a direct impact on outcomes and healthier communities. However, listening without action creates another barrier. Action sits on the accountability lap for consumers and health professionals.
Consumers (or patients) need to be empowered in a way that positions them on a positive path for improved health outcomes.
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines patient empowerment as “a process through which people gain greater control over decisions and actions affecting their health, and as such individuals and communities need to develop skills, have access to information and resources, and the opportunity to participate in and influence the factors that affect their health and well-being.”
Source: Economist Impact
Hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, health plans and public health organizations are responsible for ensuring their efforts are evidence-based, effective and benefit the public good.
“Expert clinicians know that the majority of the information directing towards the correct diagnosis comes from attentive listening to the patient’s history of the presenting complaint, set in the context of the patient’s life and known medical conditions.”
Source: NIH Article by Gordon Coldwell
“[Pharmaceutical companies] can become more knowledgeable about [their] customers through data that, if collected and used properly, can help strengthen engagement and targeting strategies moving forward.”
“Patient Listening Sessions help the Agency inform medical product development, clinical trial design, patient preferences, and shape our regulatory thinking. During a Patient Listening Session, FDA staff will either ask questions or simply listen to better understand your experiences and perspectives.”
Source: US Food and Drug Administration
While we note that listening is an intentional strategy across the board, how do you ensure this listening is impacting health equity?
Our firm looks at both qualitative and quantitative research by dissecting patient stories to understand the holistic experience that diverse consumers have (or have had) with the health ecosystem. Too often, diverse patient voices are unintentionally excluded from programming, research, and experience data. While there are many reasons, there is still a great need for an intentional focus on measuring the experiences where the metrics reflect the communities you serve. I will share a real example with a personal story.
On March 11, 2012, I was on my way home with my husband. We had just celebrated the gender reveal of our first child. By the time we reached our driveway, I experienced an unbelievable pain in the upper right side of my belly. We called the physician on call and were met with a laugh when I stated “my stomach hurts”. She proceeded to share that I could come into the Emergency Room or wait to visit with my doctor at the office in the morning.
We knew that waiting wasn’t an option. Upon arriving at the hospital emergency room, I was rushed to the labor and delivery area to receive an ultrasound. Our child’s heartbeat was faint. A few minutes later, a second ultrasound revealed she had died.
Listening matters. How you measure the action behind the listening makes the difference.
I am honored to share that while the initial encounter was not as positive, my trust level in this clinical team remains high. Their quick action in listening to my needs, accurately diagnosing me with HELLP Syndrome, monitoring my recovery was lifesaving. I also went on to partner with this same clinical team and delivered three healthy sons. What a story?! How do you measure it? How do you take the bad with the good to close the gap on health inequities?
Below are two recommendations:
- Find out which voices are missing.
- Construct a data-driven health equity plan that challenges your current approach and pulls in new stakeholders.
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