Changing the conversation about health

Carrie Grant blogs our Roadmap to Sustainable Healthcare conference

Carrie Grant Carrie Grant is Patient Lead at the College.  She writes:

I love attending conferences between all the healthcare stakeholders. It’s pretty much the only time I see both patients and professionals communicating on an level playing field, each listening to one another and no one hiding behind their status.

When patients enter the GP surgery or the hospital we are walking into the professional’s space, we are on their turf. The healthcare providers are, on the other hand, on home soil, confident in their familiar environment, kings of their castles, setting the rules of engagement. We patients are on the back foot before we’ve even begun.

Ironically, it is from this position we are expected to feel empowered and motivated to self-manage.

So, back to our conference. The theme coming through the day was that a sustainable healthcare service is achievable if we can get two areas working properly:

Technology and supported self-management.

Technologically, there has been much discussion around what people can manage in their own homes but the conference majored on technology and communication.

Hearing Micheal Seres, Patient Leader, talking about having Skype appointments and texts to let him know about his up coming surgery was music to my ears. “If I could do this it would make dealing with ill health another job in my day and not the holy grail of my week. It downsizes, normalizes and permits me not to be defined by an incurable disease” (Crohns).

Patients are used to having just a postal address and telephone switchboard number for their GP or consultant. If we’re really lucky we may have a fax number too. This is technologically archaic and it sends out a message – the professionals don’t want to speak to us. So we turn up for the appointment, cap in hand, with a grateful heart and lacking confidence, fully aware that the clock is ticking and our one window of access is shrinking by the second.

Being able to text the surgeon/consultant back and forth would be quicker for them and for us it means we too could work or attend to other pressing matters in our lives.

It was rightly pointed out that some people don’t want all the new technology and still prefer the face to face contact and of course, this needs to be acknowledged.

Much was spoken about supported self-management.

Total access to our records, not just the highlights but the actual details going back would be good.

Self-referral would also help both patient and the system to be more efficient. Those of us who have been dealing with the same chronic long-term condition for many years know what we need

If a healthcare professional deals with our long-term condition 1% of the time and we deal with it the other 99% of the time, firstly it tells me we are experts on knowing our bodies and secondly, we really need to make the time we have with the professionals count. Let’s not waste it. Let’s make it worthwhile and save the 1% for the really serious stuff, the times when we are floored by what’s going on in our bodies.

I was encouraged to hear many of our panelists speaking with an underlying sense of a “whole person approach” and all spoke with compassion.

If we are to move forward with supported self-management it is clear that healthcare professionals have to be trained in leadership skills. Not just a few sessions on how to communicate with a patient, but to look at what lies behind communication. What’s at the heart? What is their perception of a patient and how do they view themselves in their role as doctor?  This change from old fashioned, dominant, hero leadership to coach and catalytic leadership would change the face of the NHS.

Listening to the speakers at the conference it became clear to me that the greatest and most fundamental change required is a mindset change. For patient, healthcare provider, payer, pharma – all of us.  This particular change doesn’t have to cost a fortune but could well save us one!

© Carrie Grant

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