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The Caring Provider Difference

Caring Provider DifferenceYesterday I had a most unimpressive doctor visit. It left the patient in me feeling somewhat unsatisfied, and the patient experience professional in me disheartened. I have had bicep tendonitis for the last two months. This is an extremely uncomfortable condition that constantly

reminds me how much movement and involvement the shoulder has in every day and every night activities!

I am spoiled by the compassion and focus my primary physician Dr. J. gives me. I am a concierge member, and concierge medicine allows the physician to spend more time with patients and truly to help them with their health, not just their diseases. Two weeks ago, during my annual exam, I discussed my shoulder condition and apprised Dr. J. that I was seeing a massage therapist and physical therapist every week. She agreed with the physical therapist’s treatment course. However, although I am gaining increased range of motion, the pain seems to be getting worse. So I called for an appointment. Dr. J. was booked, but I was able to get an appointment to see my primary’s partner, Dr. X.

The visit did help me with the shoulder pain and I finally slept through the night. However, it did not by any means knock my socks off in the caring department. There is not one thing Dr. X. did that was “bad”. Instead, the experience was filled with missed opportunities to make me feel cared about as a human, knowledgeable about my own body and needs, and involved as a necessary part of my own care.

It started with his introduction, made standing over me as I sat in a chair.

The entire time we were talking, I found myself trying to get him to relate to me as a person, to believe what I was telling him, to acknowledge my pain and feelings, and to see me as an individual who has done my best during eight weeks of intense, debilitating pain. Finally, at the end of the visit, after I had asked him about his medical career and what brought him to family medicine in a concierge clinic, he cracked a bit of a smile and walked me to the door. He relayed that I could come back and see him if things did not get better, or I could see my primary and they would talk. I appreciated his gesture but thought, “No, next time I will wait as long as it takes to see Dr. J.”

Sometime in the future I may encounter Dr. X again, but I will do so only in times of necessity. I would not recommend him to anyone else, even though medically he is likely as good as most other doctors out there.

Today, upon reflecting on that appointment I can’t help but wonder if Dr. X. would be more gratified in his work if he would step in a bit more, if he were to relate to me as a person, and use words and body language that let me know he cares. I wonder if he might experience greater satisfaction and better fulfill the hopes he had when becoming a doctor if he saw himself as a partner on my healthcare team. Finally, I wonder if his patients, like me, might have better outcomes if our interactions felt different and left us appreciative and impressed for having spent a bit of time with him.

As healthcare providers, we have an opportunity to make each moment with our patients and family members meaningful to them far beyond basic medical care. I challenge you to think about your practice and how small changes using advanced communication skills might make a difference to others, and also will more than likely result in helping you return to your reasons for being a doctor, to feel more engaged, and to experience less burnout.

I welcome your comments below.

About Us
Driven by a passionate commitment to strengthen humanism in healthcare, Language of Caring® partners with healthcare organizations to create exceptional experiences and communities of caring through communication skill-building. Grounded in decades of experience and research, our offerings include a rich array of leadership development and support services as well as skill-building programs for staff and physicians – all designed to enhance the patient, family, and team experience.

Categories: Caring and Empathy, Change and Transformation, Patient Experience Strategies

6 Comments

  1. Jeremy Blanchard says:

    Kimberly, I am sorry you had that experience. I often wish we had Go Cameras on those we interact with so we as doctors (people) could see our impact. Thank you for sharing this. It was moving to me, Dr JB

    1. Jeremy,
      Thank you for caring and commenting!

  2. Wm. "Bill" Van Lente, MBA PsyD says:

    I would say that Dr. X was not bad, just could have been much better in fostering the best patient experience. One emphatic statement, such as “It must be frustrating for you not getting full relief from your pain given all the measures you have taken.” might have helped you feel cared for. Commending you for all you have tried, with encouragement to continue, and perhaps an added measure you can consider, would have gone even further. For example, could he have offered the option of referral to a specialist? I like the idea of a quadruple aim where health systems include care for care givers with the focus on patient experience, cost reduction, and population health. Does this system do enough for the providers along with stressing patient engagement?

    1. Wm. "Bill" Van Lente, MBA PsyD says:

      I could have shared my recent experience, which was positive. I saw an ENT doc for removal of a growth on my tongue. I said given the location, I have had an aversion to surgical removal, and asked if that was typical. His response with a smile was: “I worry more about people who do not have an aversion to surgery than those who do.” He then said he could remove the growth right then so there would be no need for another appointment, to which I agreed. It was not so bad after all, and I think his manner helped.

      1. Thank you for sharing your experience. I loved the physician’s comment about aversion, and I agree his manner/approach would have been helpful to me as a patient. Additionally, I would imagine he experiences much more job satisfaction than the physician I wrote about.

    2. Bill,
      I agree this physician was not “bad”, but rather exhibited behavior that left me feeling rather apathetic–certainly not cared for, impressed or appreciative. As a patient I have no idea what this organization does for its providers relative to care for care givers. There is a great opportunity for organizations to care for their care givers and to help them to be drawn back to their purpose and vocation as it combats disengagement and burnout. Truly, this is one of the most caring things we can do for those that work for us. Thank you for your comments!

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