What motivates patients to want to share information about themselves?

In this series studying the clinician-patient relationship, an idea was introduced which suggests that the conversations not happening between clinicians and patients are putting patients at higher risk for serious medical errors like misdiagnoses, prescribing the wrong treatment plan or prescription drug, for instance. In essence, I believe it’s a root cause of why we can’t achieve the coveted, healthcare “triple aim” – improving the patient’s experience of care (including quality and satisfaction); improving the health of populations; and reducing the per capita cost of healthcare.

Article 1 helped to explain that role confusion is an underlying reason why crucial conversations are not happening between clinicians and patients during the medical appointment. Then, article 2  detailed, from the patient’s viewpoint, why patients tend to feel powerless in their interactions with clinicians and often don’t share information about themselves. Most recently, article 3 disclosed that despite feelings of uncertainty, fear, and powerlessness, patients are willing to share information about themselves, but there are conditions!

Now that we’ve established patients will share information, let’s uncover the why behind their willingness to share.

Information sharing – what’s in it for patients?

Time, data privacy concerns and workflow are commonly mentioned constraints that are perceived barriers to collecting high quality patient information, but have we really unearthed why patients are willing to share information about themselves and do these motivations to share information override such constraints?

Remember that the type of information I’m referencing is the kind that is sociocultural in nature and/or related to the patient’s personal preferences, so aspects of one’s health and well-being that do not involve explicitly expressing physical pain and symptoms.

When surveyed, the vast majority of patients I connected with, both in the U.K. and U.S., conveyed that their primary motivations in sharing information are to: build a more comfortable, trustful relationship with their clinician; help a clinician better understand how to treat and communicate with them during a medical appointment; and help the clinician understand their individual needs. In fact:

 

  • 88% of patients agreed with the statement, “I would be comfortable sharing information about myself if I knew that it meant I could build a more comfortable, trustful relationship with a clinician”

 

  • 95% of patients agreed with the statement, “I would be comfortable sharing information about myself if I knew that it meant I would be helping a clinician better understand how to treat me and communicate with me during an appointment”

 

  • 76% of patients agreed with the statement, “In general, I believe that if I could share information about myself each time I visit a clinician, over time, the clinician will better understand my individual needs”

What does this mean for changing the way clinicians and patients interact?

A deep disconnect exists between clinicians and patients as we’ve noted that critical conversations are not happening during the medical appointment yet patients indicate that they are willing to share information under the right conditions and with the right motivations.

What seems to be missing in this process is a deeper understanding of how clinicians can express to patients that they value the patient’s information, systematically elicit and store this information and consistently use the patient’s information in a meaningful way by synthesizing it with their existing biomedical knowledge.

Equally or more important is the management of the spoken and unspoken communications between clinicians and patients that are happening during the medical appointment. For instance, during the appointment, the patient is actively assessing both the similarities and differences between themselves and their clinician to determine the clinician’s degree of openness, empathy and level of trust that can be established. On the other hand, the clinician should be assessing how to approach the dialogue with the patient to manage their perceptions, reflecting on their own beliefs and values that may influence their judgment and ultimately create a more comfortable environment to disarm the patient.

Pursuing these changes is not easy, but it can be done by transforming the minds of both patients and clinicians as well as resetting expectations with support through a human-centered technology.

Agree? Disagree? Tell me what you think!

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/laurenchofmann and Twitter:@LaurenCHof

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