The match game of healthcare that works (Part III)

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Care for yourself by assessing the “care” in your healthcare

There’s a lot of discussion both within the medical profession and among average everyday patients and family members about what constitutes “quality” healthcare and “care” in general. As with most things in life, the nature of the discussion reflects the frame of reference of those doing the discussing.  The result: care is defined, and measured, differently depending on who is involved.

For providers, “care” is typically what they can easily measure

Hospitals generally tend to consider quality care, and its measurement, in three categories:  1)  what didn’t happen, for example: decreasing re-admissions or reducing or eliminating adverse drug interactions and infections, and of course the ultimate “never event” ‒ no deaths; 2) patient improvements on any number of laboratory tests that may be relevant for what is desired to be measured; and 3) patient satisfaction survey scores which typically provide patients a list of “events” and ask patients to rate what occurred or didn’t occur, such as: did staff members introduce themselves and did they listen.

For practitioners, their measure of quality of care may be similar to what hospitals measure.  It’s not uncommon to see practitioners list services, treatments or procedures as a means to communicate the type of “care” they provide.  Non-allopathic physicians (NDs, TCMs, etc.) may related quality of care to improvements in the health and well-being of their patients based on how their medical sciences define health.  (see The match game of healthcare that works ‒ Part II:  Make healthcare truly about you – your personal definition of “health).

All of these things identified as aspects, qualities or attributes of “care” are quantifiable in numbers.  Being in the shoes of the patient, or family member, the question to ask is: do those numbers add up to care that you care about?

For patients, “care” is how they feel

Patients seek healthcare to feel better.

“Patient care is emotional work.” *

From both the patient and physician perspective, emotion and care are intertwined.  Yet how patients feel is rarely central to identifying, measuring, or achieving “care” that matters to the patient. Such an emotional framework may be considered elusive because emotions are deemed to be intangible.  Yet with a manageable framework, we can do this.  If the industry isn’t doing this in a way that is meaningful to patients, perhaps like the “we are the 99%; Occupy Wall Street” movement, it’s up to patients and their families to identify the emotional attributes and measure care that matters.

Create your personal assessment of “care”

As a starting point, do you know the healing feelings?  When we experience the feelings of being:
• comfortable
• understood
• connected
• strengthened
• renewed

Those feeling set the stage for our mind/body systems to heal.  These feelings will be your guide to know when your experience is one of “healthcaring.”  If these healing feelings don’t resonate with you, find five other feelings that reflect how you want to feel at each step in a healthcare experience.

Whether you’re at a regular appointment with a physician, at a lab for tests, or contemplating procedures at a hospital, follow this simple three step assessment to determine if you’re experiencing “care” that supports you.  At each stage in your interaction:

• Pause: At meaningful moments in the experience, pause and pay attention to what’s going on – what are you seeing, smelling, touching, hearing, or even tasting.
• Connect: Then connect with what you’re feeling, find the words for how you feel.
• Assess: Weigh how frequently you were feeling one of the healing feelings (or some other positive emotion) and how often you were feeling something not as positive.

Keep a small notebook handy to track this.  Moments in the experience go by quickly.  What you end up with may partially look like this:
• Walking in, I’m overwhelmed and anxious because the directions I had were bad, I got lost, and now I’m late.
• As I’m greeted, I feel a bit calmer, more comfortable; the man at the front desk was friendly and greeted me by name.
• While filling out paperwork I’m frustrated.   As a returning patient, I’m thinking surely with technology there has to be a way to see my past information and simply update.
• Post paperwork, I’m a bit more relaxed, fairly comfortable.  The waiting area has comfortable chairs, not to close together, no loud discussions.
• Being guided through the building or space, I have no idea where I’m going and don’t feel comfortable I can find my way back out or find a restroom.
• I feel grateful, strengthened even, when talking with my physician; she let me talk for a full 30 minutes and tell her everything; she asked relevant questions; as a result I feel understood.
• Leaving, I’m confused.  I have a piece of paper with brief instructions of what to do next, but on reflection I don’t remember all of the conversation and these limited notes are insufficient to feel confident that I can manage my care.

Why how you feel matters to your well-being

We all know how important positive emotions are to our well-being and how disruptive negative emotions are to our healing.   If our healthcare experience is filled with more aspects that trigger negative emotions, we’re actually going a bit backwards – or at least we may find ourselves feeling like we now have to catch up to our prior point of “being.”  Supporting positive feelings throughout each aspect of the experience should be part of the “care” healthcare providers provide.

Along with your personal worldview of health, your definition of health, this process is a valuable component to determine what organizations and practitioners you will partner with for your well- being.  If you don’t feel “good” about something or someone, that’s your cue to adjust and make a change.  Remember, these feelings are influencing your overall health and well-being every moment of the day.

Note:  This is part an ongoing series to equip you with a process, a path, to identify and experience healthcare that works for you.
— Foundation:  The heart of healthcare that works:  know your personal worldview of health:
— The match game of healthcare that works series ‒ Part I: Understand the landscape set by insurance companies:
— The match game of healthcare that works series ‒ Part II:  Make healthcare truly about you – your personal definition of “health”:

Deb is co-owner of Experience In Motion, which equips organizations with tools to curate meaningful experiences for customers and employees.  Deb’s personal journey from decay to well-being inspired an emphasis in improving healthcare experiences for patients and practitioners by focusing on experiences that heal, and self-caring as a way of organizational being.


Deb is the co-creator of The Toolkit to Empower Healing, filled with tools for healthcare practitioners and organizations to use as the foundation for a patient centered healing experience. In 2010, Deb and her partner, Nancy O’Brien, delved into the staff side of the healthcare experience and conducted a research study about the healing experience for practitioners and staff. This resulted in the research report: 5 Dimensions of Self-Caring that Heal Healthcare: The Foundation of an Experience Management Strategy. The experience management tools and the research study are available at Deb received her BS in Journalism and her JD from the University of Nebraska.

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