Can we ever fix healthcare?

American healthcare is broken. Healthcare is a mess and is not improving from high costs to administrative complexity. Universal coverage would not make a difference. Healthcare needs leaders who understand the focus should be on patients, not profits.

This week, I had to go to the ER for pain associated with a kidney stone. Those of you who have had a stone know how bad the pain can be, but I had to wait over two and a half hours for treatment while patients with lesser injuries were treated ahead of me. It’s 2024. Healthcare should not be like this.

If you visit your doctor, you’ll receive a follow-up survey to rate your visit. With all this feedback, healthcare should improve, but it doesn’t. It’s not complicated. Patients want to be seen as people, and they don’t want to be kept waiting while in extreme pain.

The healthcare system’s core function is to address patients’ medical needs. But what if there’s more to the equation? Patients today seek a well-rounded healthcare experience that prioritizes clinical expertise, compassion, communication, and convenience. Let’s delve into what truly matters to patients:

1. Feeling Heard and Respected: At the heart of positive patient experiences lies a healthcare provider who actively listens to concerns. Patients want doctors who take the time to understand their symptoms and ask clarifying questions. Feeling rushed or dismissed can erode trust and hinder accurate diagnosis.

2. Open Communication and Shared Decision-Making: Patients are increasingly knowledgeable about health information. They appreciate doctors who clearly explain diagnoses and treatment options. An ideal scenario involves a collaborative approach, where patients feel empowered to participate in decisions about their care.

3. A Touch of Humanity: A sympathetic doctor can make a difference. Patients value providers who demonstrate empathy and understanding. A compassionate demeanor can alleviate anxiety and foster a sense of trust, leading to better treatment outcomes.

4. Technology for Convenience: In today’s digital age, patients appreciate the ease of online appointment scheduling, secure patient portals for accessing medical records, and the ability to connect with healthcare providers virtually. Technology can streamline communication and empower patients to manage their health more actively.

5. Affordability and Transparency: Healthcare costs can be a major source of stress. Patients seek clear explanations of charges and out-of-pocket expenses. Additionally, flexible payment plans and upfront cost estimates can ease the financial burden and promote informed decision-making.

By prioritizing these essential elements, healthcare providers can foster a patient-centered environment that delivers effective treatment, builds trust, and fosters a sense of well-being. Ultimately, it’s about creating a healthcare experience beyond the clinical, where patients feel valued, informed, and empowered partners in their health journey.