What Do Patients Want? Listen to Them to Find Out

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By Jennifer Van Winkle 
Clinical Product Manager, Change Healthcare
Doctor Listening in Home Care Service

It’s a simple concept: Listen to patients to find out what they are thinking and what they want. Now before you say to yourself, “D-uh, that’s so obvious,” take a step back and consider your own interactions with patients.

Most people who require home care services are older and have lots to say. But how often do we cut these people off because we’ve heard this story before or we need to treat this patient and continue to the next one? I’ve certainly been guilty of this, and I bet that you have, too.

I was reminded of the importance of listening while reading a recent article in Forbes by Sachin H. Jain, president and chief medical officer at CareMore Health System, an Anthem company that serves more than 100,000 Medicare and Medicaid patients in eight states. He also spoke on the topic at National Committee on Quality Assurance (NCQA) “Quality Talks.”

Jain has struggled with the same issues. He discovered that listening to other executives and employees about what patients wanted was totally opposite of what he learned when he spoke to patients directly. “So how do we ever really know how we are doing? How do we know what we could be doing better?” Jain writes. “To be sure, there are quality measures and survey data and these are vital. But there is no substitute for hearing directly from patients.”

At a time when reimbursements increasingly are being tied to patient/caregiver satisfaction scores, how are you reinforcing to your field staff the importance of actually listening to patients? Their goals for home health may vary widely from what the nurse filling out the OASIS thinks they ought to be. In some cases, perhaps, the patient’s goals aren’t robust enough to continue living at home. When that occurs, the nurse should have a frank discussion with the patient about living at home versus assisted-living or skilled-living facilities.

But I bet that listening closely to patients may reveal goals that are attainable but weren’t apparent unless the nurse asked. Speaking of listening, I listened to a recent Visiting Nurse Associations of America (VNAA) webinar on value-based purchasing, and the top tip for improving the patient experience was to “make it an ‘always event’ to ask about the patient’s personal goal for each specific visit: ‘What can I do for you today?’”

There’s an adage that states we all have two ears and one mouth for a reason. What it means is that we should spend more time listening than talking. It’s a lesson we all can learn.

What are your goals for your home care organization? And how can we help you achieve them? Leave a comment below.

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