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How to build a better patient experience with Doctor Mike

By Doctor Mike/Dr. Mike Varshavski

Patients are demanding more from their healthcare experiences than ever before. 

In the face of mounting pressures, meeting expectations may feel daunting for care teams. 

I was recently featured in an NRC Health webcast examining the future of the patient experience. I dive into how clinicians can balance human understanding with the very real pressures of contemporary healthcare delivery.  

Drawing on the voices of my nearly 23 million followers underscored the transformative power of prioritizing human connection in healthcare. 

Let me walk you through how to demonstrate empathy and communication to spearhead the revolution of healthcare interactions for both patients and providers. 

Watch Dr. Mike’s webcast on NRC Health here to hear how he is igniting a better patient experience

On-demand webcast

Make patient encounters more human and less robotic

No patient wants their doctor to come in and be a robot.

For example, when doctors stare at the computer screen and type—even though they might be doing the right thing by listening intently and documenting the encounter—it can come across as if the doctor is speaking robotically to the patient. 

The fact that the physician is acting robotically creates an issue in the patient’s mind. It gives the impression that the doctor is not fully caring about them as another human. 

When you have that and lose that trust, you run into problems because the teamwork needs to be on the same page.

I can’t tell you how many of my patient encounters are less medical and more and more often human. 

Because the things that drive the best outcomes happen as a result of things that we can do within our lifestyles and human capacity.”

Put safeguards in place to educate the patient

In our current capitalistic system, having a tool like telemedicine or urgent care is very convenient. 

It fits a specific niche and helps patients with certain needs. However, it can start to become overused because it could possibly become more profitable.

We have to put safeguards in place and educate patients so they don’t use these well-intentioned avenues for getting care in ways that are not ideal for them. 

Too often, I see young people in college, early in their careers, start utilizing urgent care as their primary care doctor, which is not what the tool is intended to do. 

You could use a screwdriver as a hammer. 

But it’s much better and safer to use a hammer. 

We need to consider it and educate patients so that they can make the best decisions for themselves.

Empower the patient with financial transparency

The topic of transparency and pricing is common. 

For instance, if I am trying to prescribe a medicine for a patient or a diagnostic modality, I don’t know the costs of these things. The costs are often hidden and negotiated differently by each insurance company with unique hospital systems. 

It becomes impossible for doctors to formulate a budget-friendly plan for a patient.

We can compare pricing for any other healthcare system that is not insurance-based. 

For example, let’s say cosmetic surgery. We can call multiple offices, compare prices for a nose job or some other procedure—say, liposuction—and get prices and do a comparison shot. 

In healthcare, this is nearly impossible to do. 

Then doctors wonder why patients are upset with the cost of healthcare because they’re not in control. The idea of empowerment is really just a hallucination in the corporation’s mind. 

Because if I’m empowered, I know the cost of things.

If I’m empowered, I’m able to have choice in things. 

If I’m empowered, I get my questions answered. 

But if I need to wait 30 minutes to get a simple question answered, or I have no idea how much things cost, the idea of empowerment is just a mirage.

Humanize the use of hospitalists

The little things go a long way.

For example, when a patient is hospitalized, they often don’t see the sunlight. 

They lose track of time—what time it is during the day. They lose sense of where they are, especially if they are older, and they have issues maintaining good cognition.  

A good step is to write who your doctor and nurse are on a board. 

But that’s not enough. 

Can healthcare systems start displaying images of doctors on screens and making sure patients are aware of who is coming in? 

Can we set up a schedule so they can set expectations around when this doctor will come in? 

Can we write their history and educational background so the patient becomes more familiar with them? 

These little trust hacks are valuable and can help familiarize patients with their hospitalist before they walk in. 

It can’t be just some afterthought. There has to be an intention behind this. 

If you make it accessible to the patient right by their bedside, they have a schedule of when approximately the doctor will come in, so we don’t need to put specific time pressures on the doctor.

Use patient experience scores to improve the way we practice healthcare

Patient satisfaction scores are a tool that can bring benefits and improve the way we practice healthcare.

However, patient satisfaction scores cannot alone solve all our problems. They will, in turn, create some issues. 

Patient satisfaction scores are a tool that should be used responsibly. 

Why do you think we don’t use chainsaws to perform surgeries? 

One tool does not solve all our problems. 

In this scenario, patient satisfaction scores can highlight serious ineffectiveness with providers and systems and recurring issues that can be solved very simply upstream.  

Patient satisfaction scores are essential. 

At the same time, we need to ensure they are not weaponized against hospital systems or providers. 

I’ve seen doctors experience so much pressure from the fear of getting a negative patient review. 

It causes some to compromise their clinical decision-making by ordering tests that the patient may get harm from or prescribing medications that are inappropriate for a certain condition because the patient requested them and threatened them with a negative review. 

We need to be aware of the harms that can come from the situation and instead use it to its strongest benefit.

Improve patient experience by leading with a human-first mentality

Improving patient experience is about leading with a human-first mentality. Doctors need to understand the main reason why the patient is there and be present at the moment. 

Remember – the patient comes first, not the computer. 

Unplug from technologies. Get to know the patient. And check in with them after you’ve given the patient treatment. 

Watch Dr. Mike’s webcast on NRC Health here to hear how he is igniting a better patient experience.

Doctor Mike Varshavski is a board-certified family medicine physician and social media influencer with an audience of over 25 million followers across platforms. On his YouTube channel, Doctor Mike debunks medical misinformation and educates his audience about their health and bodies. Learn more about Dr. Mike here.