'Healthcare is a two-way street'

  | June 12, 2017

As physicians, we want our patients to be full and active partners in their own healthcare. We have the medical training and experience, and commit to being accessible, responsive, and collaborative.

They should commit to being engaged and willing to work at improving their own health.

First and foremost, patients need to be interested in their healthcare. We encourage them to ask questions about treatment plans, or about the benefits and risks of prescription drugs. We want them to express what “health" and “illness" mean to them, in their situation. What are their goals? What can they reasonably control and what can they not?

In fact, we would love it if every one of our patients would create a list of their health priorities we could use as a roadmap to guide their care. They should review this list with their families, partners, or caregivers. My hope is this exercise would help them understand and articulate why they are seeking help, allowing us to provide them better care. Not all things can be done at once, so it is important for us to hear from patients what matters most to them right now in terms of their healthcare.

We try to help our patients understand that they should prepare for their scheduled health visits: Pull together their current health information and any changes in status, come prepared with specific questions, be ready to tell us what they understand and what they don't. Today's healthcare system is complex and can feel overwhelming, but patients should always be empowered to advocate for themselves.

Beyond the office visit, we try to inspire healthy everyday behaviors. We stress the importance of taking their medications when and how they are advised. And we make clear how important it is to come back for timely follow-up appointments.

Furthermore, we try to communicate that part of the patient's job is to invest their resources of time, money, and energy in becoming healthier: Eat healthy foods, try to stop smoking, control drinking, exercise daily, and find strength within their inner selves. We try to be understanding (but firm) in sending this message — you catch more flies with honey!

At the end of the day, it's about balance: What can be done, what is done, what you can tolerate. But healthcare is a two-way street — in order to get, you have to give.

Richard B. Terry, M.D., FACS, is a consultant chief physician executive to Cookeville Regional Medical Group in Tennessee.

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Really? It's all about the OFFICE VISIT? If "health" is the desired outcome, office visits should be the last resort. What the health(care) system - the "care" is in parentheses since getting "care" in the current system means something has gone wrong with our health, not that we have any sense of caring from the provider side - should be focused on is meeting people where they are, not making people come to where the healthcare system can bill for 'em. Yeah, yeah, I know that health(care) is only paid for office visits, or "care" provided in a medical facility - imaging, surgery, infusion, et al - but isn't shifting that paradigm the real path to the two-way street in your post's title? Engagement only happens when someone sees themselves in the story. Currently, people are dedicated to NOT getting "healthcare," because the healthcare delivery system is focused on fixing stuff that's broken (arms, pancreases, hearts, etc.), not in keeping them in working order from jump. Build a healthcare system that really focuses on the "health" part of that word, and you'll be on to something. People will actually engage with their lives, and holding on to their health, if the "system" actually starts paying attention to them as humans, rather than CPT codes or body parts ...
Mighty Casey
An interesting perspective, and from the country with possibly the most 'business-orientated ' healthcare system in the World. The healthcare economists I have read seem to suggest that healthcare is one thing that is *not* amenable to a market approach - there are too many conflicts of interest and perverse incentives. I wonder if your view extends to systems outside the USA, and what advantages and disadvantages arise in other models of healthcare?
Raihan Islam

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'Healthcare is a two-way street'