Category Archives: #engagement

The Patient Waiting Room Rethought

Photo curtesy of Joseph Babaian (@JoeBabaian)

Yesterday Joe sent this tweet asking the #HCLDR family their opinions on the opportunities for improving the design within the above spaces.

My initial gut reaction, as many other people, was in pointing out the obvious. Things such as the TV, the picture on the wall, the chairs, the framed signed on the table, a lamp that is off, etc.

I even questioned the need for a waiting room? In theory, no patient should have to wait, and therefore, the waiting room could be eliminated.

As I began to ponder the question during my 2 hour drive today, I began to reframe the question in my mind.

Instead of asking what is wrong with the space or how to improve the design or the need for a waiting room, I started to think about challenges patients highlight.

Topics that we discuss during the weekly chats of #HCLDR.

What if we reframe and ask ourselves the following:

How can we help patients connect with one another?

In thinking about the space above (left picture specifically), I would rearrange the furniture to be in small circles or groups versus in a line.

Perhaps instead of the local news or Ellen on the TV I would show video’s from YouTube about nutrition, or the clinicians, or an important topic that is relevant to the community of patients congregating.

Maybe I would have a social worker in the space to help facilitate sharing, asking questions, and prepping/introducing those new patients with those that are coming back for a follow up.

Maybe the space should be more about sharing our stories, our common experiences, our fears, our questions with one another and use it as a learning opportunity? Maybe this is the space where we impact health literacy. Or address access to improved nutrition. Or share resources within the community.

Perhaps the space has nothing to do with waiting, but everything with building a tribe of patients that share a common thread and can learn from one each other’s experience.

Perhaps knowing a patient like me, the one sitting next to me, helps me realize that we do things like this.

We connect. We share. We learn. We grow.

Perhaps care at the N of 1 begins by connecting patients in the waiting room?

Let’s rename it the sharing room.

As always you can feel free to email me at or follow me on Twitter @cancergeek



Dear Patient WIll You Marry Me?

Patient Engagement.jpg

Patient engagement. It’s another one of the many healthcare #buzzwords or as I like to say #hcflair that physicians, nurses, administrators, consultants, and many professional organizations use.

According to a Health Policy Brief in the February 14th, 2013 issue of Health Affairs, patient engagement refers to the people actively involved in their health and health care. It is important because this group of people tend to have better outcomes–and, some evidence suggests, lower costs.

In a May 2,2013 article entitled “This Is What Patient Engagement Really Is” on by Dr. Robert Lamberts he states that patient engagement is about interaction, listening, and learning in relationship to another person.  Engagement is not a strategy, it is care.

When I think of the phrase engagement, I immediately begin to think of when two people decide to make a commitment to one another. A commitment to have, to hold, to listen, for better or worse, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.

Most often my mind imagines that one person is kneeling holding a ring and asking the other person to enter into this relationship.

So I struggle with “patient engagement” because I have never seen a physician, a nurse, a hospital, a wellness clinic, or a healthcare system take the time to get to know my story, court me, and then ask for my hand in marriage, ahem, my life in sickness and health.

I have had them ask me the same questions everyone else does, what insurance do you have?

Where I really struggle is that I typically do not define myself as a patient. I define myself in a lot of other ways, but never really as a patient. As a matter of fact, I usually introduce myself as Andy in WI. Builder of hospitals and cancer centers; Designer of patient experiences (whatever that means); Developer of service lines; Global marketer; Advocate; Disruptor.

Amongst the many healthcare conferences, meetings, professional sessions, and vendor showcases I have only twice seen anyone introduce themselves as a patient. (in 14 years across the globe)

In online communities, there are definitely more people that do introduce themselves as a patient.

If we wait until people are patients, are we too late to engage them?

In my experience, it is not until we have our own “WTF is wrong with me?” moment, that we seek a medical professional to figure out and inform us on what is wrong. To generate an answer to our “what” question, a diagnosis.

It is not until we have a diagnosis that most of us consider ourselves to be a patient. Up until that point, we are just people living our lives, doing our daily activities, not caring about hospitals, physicians, nurses, and the healthcare system.

When we are in pain, sick, hurting, or told that we have a life altering diagnosis, are we ready to be married so quickly? Do we have time to date around and make sure we want to marry this physician or this hospital?

I have had many conversations over the past year with developers, vendors, healthcare organizations, administrators, physicians and other clinicians on this topic. Most jump to technology as being the key to “engaging” the patient.

However, when I talk to patients, it is a very different jump. It is more of a quantum leap.

Patients want things to be simple, easy, personal. Technology can compliment, but it is the personal connection that builds the relationship.

Patients want a relationship. They want to know that when it is 3am in the morning and they are feeling horrible that they can call and someone will be there to answer their questions. Patients want to know that if they leave and forget the conversation that someone wrote them a little note to remind them of the discussion. Patients want to know if they have reservations that their healthcare team is willing to listen, support, and offer them resources.

People build relationships. Relationships build trust. Trust builds engagement.

In my opinion if we are going to truly engage we need to begin prior to a diagnosis. We need to engage a community based on their needs, their challenges, and their problems.

Define the problems of a community. Understand the people. Then healthcare can prescribe the appropriate answer while treating patients as people.

As always, you can feel free to contact me at: CANCERGEEK@GMAIL.COM or follow me on twitter @cancergeek