Every healthcare provider has had “that” patient. It was the person they looked forward to seeing. Whether it was a shared interest in a hobby or cheeky sense of humor, there were simply some patients with whom there was a more personal bond. It is this type of connection that creates the opportunity to cultivate a holistic relationship between healthcare provider and patient. There are benefits for both sides, which create a partnership leading to better overall patient health outcomes. This organic rapport teases out relevant medical information, providing an opportunity to educate, or advocate on behalf of the patient.
In return, the healthcare provider’s efforts can be met with increased compliance and the knowledge that the patient has the best chance of success.
There is a gap between medical recommendation and patient execution. Depending upon their conditions and the complexity of the regimens required, some studies show as many as 40% of patients fail to adhere to treatment recommendations.
Patient Compliance is Key
Patient compliance with medical advice is an essential element on the road to better health. While there are many reasons for lack of compliance, from inability to defiance, it has been shown that there is a direct relation between patients’ affinity for their healthcare provider (HCP) and an adherence to medical advice. There was no discernment between the types of HCPs. What was important? The underlying trust and bond felt by the patient. In allowing the natural affinity to flourish, the HCP was able to positively influence patient behavior in all areas of health, not just their own specialty.
In an ideal relationship, patients are well-matched to their primary care provider, but much like co-workers, proximity does not equate to a personal connection. Most workers would not freely choose to disclose personal information to a random officer. Patients have no choice. Some patients would rather withhold important information than share it with someone with whom they do not relate to. They may instead share it with a different medical professional they like more.This is where it is helpful to be open to that personal affinity for a patient. While the HCP is not acting as the patient’s PCP, they are positioning themselves as a center point of healthcare for that patient in a way that the less trusted HCP cannot.
It would be unfair to paint the holistic healthcare relationship as one without any difficulties. There are very real reasons why a healthcare provider might want to keep a clearly delineated line between themselves and patients. Personal privacy is, of course, a primary and very reasonable obstacle. Not every healthcare provider feels comfortable with sharing bits of personal information. That, and the comfort level of the patient, should always take primacy. From a practical standpoint, it is impossible to form a bond with every patient.
There are very real time constraints involved. One patient may have a handful of specialists, but one healthcare provider has hundreds of clients. A patient may have one appointment during the day, the HCP over a dozen. The flurry of faces tends to anonymize all but the few — and it is that few who can be helped. To try to force a connection would be dishonest and inauthentic. Simultaneously, stifling the enjoyment one has with a favored patient during an office visit misses the chance to play a potentially pivotal role in their overall health.
A holistic healthcare relationship is one where there is a small window in which to team with a patient. Leveraging commonalities allows the healthcare provider to utilize a convivial relationship to help patients who may be reluctant to share important information with their primary care provider.
Dynamics of Holistic Health Care
So what does a productive holistic healthcare relationship look like? For me, it looks like my hand. As a person living with multiple sclerosis (MS), I have several medical specialists whom I see. All of these individual needs are like my fingers. At the center of my hand is the palm which represents the holistic healthcare relationship I have with a physician assistant. In order for the hand to function, there has to be coordination between all of my fingers. They must work in concert with one another in order for me to grasp objects or make traumatic communications. Yet, none of these fingers could function without a palm.
The palm not only connects the fingers to the hall of my body, it also functions as the center point for my finger movements. A holistic healthcare relationship is the palm that helps to ease the fingers into working together. The initial healthcare practitioner and patient bond is the foundation that opens the door.