Wednesday night I had the privilege to be invited to my first #Blab with Melissa McCool (@melissaxxmccool). The topic for the #Blab was “Brainstorm Creative Ways To Engage Vulnerable Patients.” (click here for the Blab)
I thoroughly enjoyed the ability to connect on video with Melissa as well as several other colleagues that I run into often over at #HCLDR.
After the conversation it made me think about the topic a bit more.
It made me consider what makes patients vulnerable?
There are the obvious topics like health insurance, financial burden, access to health and care teams, and patient education.
But are the above topics really root causes, or are they merely symptoms?
For example, I recall a story told by Gonzalo (@bacigalupe) of a child that was meeting with a therapist but her mother was never able to join the meetings, so therefore the child stopped coming to the sessions. After further investigation, it was the fact that the mother had to work several jobs, was unable to make it to the appointment due to work and distance, but was able to join via cell phone. The therapist began using cell phone and they were able to continue the sessions, continuing to make progress for the family.
I remember a story from one of my own experiences in which a patient always seemed to skip every other appointment. The patient would typically say it was due to being forgetful, or emergencies came up, or other issues. After further conversation we realized that it was due to transportation issues. The transportation was due to a living situation. The living situation in turn added other stresses. So we worked to address the living situation and magically there were no more transportation issues, no more scheduling problems, no more missed appointments, and the patient ended up getting better care on a consistent basis.
The stories remind me that if we want to truly solve for “engagement” challenges that we need to be prepared to roll up our sleeves, walk in the shoes of the population we want to assist, and extend our observations beyond the walls of healthcare.
We need to stop treating the symptoms and begin treating the original diagnosis.
We need to empathize and begin understanding one patient at a time.
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