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What is your approach to the biggest health risk of our time?

Sixty to eighty percent of people are now overweight or obese. This is associated with considerable morbidity. Yet it is a very complex issue and the causes of the condition are many and varied.

…..the dramatic rise in the incidence of obesity in many countries appears to be due to the complex interaction of a variety of factors including genetic, physiologic, environmental, psychological, social, economic, and political. Wright and Aronne

The experience of overweight people with healthcare professionals is not universally good.

Seventy‐six individuals (aged 16–72) were interviewed. Most had struggled with their weight for most of their lives (n = 45). Almost all had experienced stigma and discrimination in childhood (n = 36), as adolescents (n = 41) or as adults (n = 72). About half stated that they had been humiliated by health professionals because of their weight. Thomas et al

Over my whole 40 year dieting history I found two doctors who have said ‘well, come back once a week or once a fortnight and I will weigh you’. I found that very helpful and useful, because you feel like somebody is on your side. (65 year old female)

 They have helped because they guided me and pointed things out and they were there for me. If I’ve got questions they are helpful. (28 year old female)

 Oh well, I have spoken to my doctor about it and he just says get more exercise. I did mention it to one other doctor and he said there is only one way to lose weight and that’s meal replacement drinks or tablets. So I never went back to him because I don’t agree with that. (49 year old male)

 My doctor keeps saying, you need to lose weight. And I say, yes, I know that and I want to and I try to watch what I am eating, but it is just getting harder and harder. (59 year old female)

If you are a healthcare professional it is very likely that you will see several people today who are overweight or obese. How will you raise the topic with them? How will you know they want to address the issue? What help will your offer? How do you know you have been helpful to others in these circumstances?

Picture by Paola Kizette Cimenti

The doctor is a busy lady

My friend Alex is a good daughter. She would accompany her mother to the clinic for injections every two weeks. They would wait patiently in the waiting room before they were called in to have the treatment. Alex’s mother was a diabetic. Because of her treatment she needed regular meals. At one visit Alex went up to the reception desk and asked how long before it was her mother’s turn.

You see she is a diabetic and needs some food.

The response was jarring:

The doctor is a professor.  She is a very busy lady. She will see you when she is free.

Alex tells me that professor was a wonderful doctor and would have been horrified to hear that the receptionist had been so rude. Do you know what the person who saw you customer, client or patient just before you said to that person? Isn’t it your business to know?

Picture by Ronnie Scotch Finger

Trust me

Is there anything about how you appear today that might reduce your credibility with your client, customer or patient? Does anything about you diminish the impression you’d like to create?

A majority of participants reported that wearing an easy to read name tag (77%), neat grooming (65%), and professional dress (59%) were important when first meeting a family member’s ICU physician, while a minority felt that physician sex (3%), race (3%), age (10%), absence of visible tattoos (30%) and piercings (39%), or wearing a white coat (32%) were important.

Third, we affirmed that regardless of dress, professionalism, neat grooming, and a clear name tag are perceived as a requisite by patient families. These results suggest that while families may not express preferences for how physicians dress, there may be subconscious associations with well-recognized physician uniforms including white coats and scrubs. Given the importance of effective communication in the ICU, physicians may want to consider that their attire could influence family rapport, trust, and confidence. Selena Au

Picture by Rodrigo Santos

Show and tell

Nothing is as compelling as seeing a vision of  yourself in the future. Increasingly healthcare professionals have the scope to offer people a vision of the future. It’s possible to display projected changes on avatars, websites or infographics. How might you show people what might happen in the foreseeable future?

Recent literature shows that new technologies can be used to promote patient engagement. The present contribution focuses on Virtual Worlds (VWs), namely virtual environments that multiple users can experience together thanks to the use of avatars. Indeed, VWs offer interesting opportunities for patient engagement interventions on two levels. On the individual level, customized avatars are known to have relationships with users’ inner experience and Self-conception, so that they may constitute a peculiar additional tool for psychological assessment. Moreover, they are able to promote healthy behaviors thanks to a strong vicarious reinforcement (Proteus effect). On the collective level, VWs constitute an ideal platform to support the emergence of collective flow states (Networked Flow) which are related to the patients’ creative activity and well-being. Healthy Avatars, Healthy People: Care Engagement Through the Shared Experience of Virtual Worlds

Picture by Trina Alexander

Do you bring more than your body to work?

Things happen at home. They happen now and they happened in the past. A child gets sick, a parent dies, a partner leaves you, a bill is overdue, a neighbour causes hassle. You end up in hospital, you get a parking ticket, you win a prize, you get picked for a team, your application gets rejected . Good things, bad things or just ‘things’. Be honest- how much of this plays on your mind as you serve your next customer, client or patient? How do you handle that? Do you take the backpack off before you get to the office, clinic or shop?

Picture by Neil Moralee

Steep hill but nice view

On this beautiful earth it is not long before you have to climb a hill to enjoy the view. Where in your job is extra effort required to get to the end of the day? What makes it harder? Could it be the voice in your head telling you that this particular ‘hill’ was specifically designed to make life harder for you? Is it because you were not anticipating any ‘hills’. Are you on the wrong road? Do you need to get fitter? Is hill climbing not for you? Could it be that the view is not worth the effort?

Here’s a perspective from Jonathan Mead

Picture by  Tejvan Pettinger

Why do you keep me waiting?

We often have to wait in line to be served. In healthcare that happens a lot. If you had to wait an hour or more every time you needed something from somewhere would you continue going there? Why or why not? Does queuing have to be  fact of life in healthcare? How long before someone works out it isn’t necessary and offers an alternative? What will happen to those places that fail to keep up?

Although appointment systems are often designed to avoid doctor idle time (without considering patient waiting time), it is possible to reduce patient wait time without significantly increasing doctor idle time.

Picture by Michael Dales

Where were you when I was bored and saw this?

The triggers are everywhere- Hungry? Thirsty? Bored? Sad? We have something for you right now. Meanwhile your advise is a quiet voice in the back of their mind. There is an entire industry dependent on people’s bad choices, they are not taking a holiday this year working on how to influence them more than your diet and exercise program. There’s another industry depending on those choices so that you- doctor- will prescribe their neatly packaged answer to the expanding waist lines and furred arteries. It’s about the economy. The show must go on.

Picture by osde8info

What’s your vibe?

Do the people who seek your help sense that you are distinctive in some way? How? Is there anything remarkable about you? Your blue shirts? Your leather boots? Something that they immediately recognize as your ‘trademark’. According to Dana Lynch image consultant, your style matters for three reasons:

  1. People for impressions of you within a mere 3 seconds!

2. Your style makes you memorable.

3. Your style allows you to express who you are, which ultimately leads to an improved self-image and confidence.

If you are a doctor your patients will likely decide within seconds if they are going to take your advice.

Picture by Ronald Menti

On the question of quality context is everything

The question of quality in primary care is a vexed one. According to the King’s Fund:

We have suggested some ways that practices could begin to audit their own practice…. and made recommendations about how the work we have begun could be used as the basis for future development of quality indicators in general practice. While some of these are harder to define we think that many of these aspects of care can be captured by measuring how patients experience care. King’s Fund 2011

The issue is addressed in some detail in the report which includes the following key points:

The key activity in general practice is the consultation. The consultation has been dissected for its component parts by Deveugele et al :

8% Social behavior, 15% agreement, 4% rapport building, 10% partnership building, 11% giving directions, 28% giving information, 14% asking questions and 7% counselling.

Much of what transpires in that consultation can only be reliably interpreted within the local context of that consultation. Therefore any interpretation of the outcome must take into account factors that are not generalisable. That makes it difficult to draw reliable and safe conclusions and by corollary to set benchmarks that apply across every setting.

If the King’s Fund report makes any contribution it is that it highlights the need for further research into interventions that can be deployed within the context of the consultation to reduce diagnostic errors, to understand differences in referral rates and to explain variation in prescribing practice. It also highlights that we have inadequate data on what interventions are best deployed in the context of primary care to support health promotion.

Finally the report makes a very important observation that patients need to be more involved in their healthcare and that the patient experience should be the basis on which we focus on this issue going forward.

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