Healthcare, empathy, the NHS and the power of video

Thanks to Tim Brown for posting the link to this fantastic video from the Cleveland Clinic.

Please give it 4 minutes of your time.

In his post, Tim asks readers to consider how this would work as a design brief for someone designing a hospital or healthcare system. I cannot help think that the relevance and value of the video goes much deeper. Particularly in the UK.

Amidst budget crises, reorganisations of Hospital Trusts and the creation of new markets, the whole point of what the NHS does and who it is ultimately there to serve seems to be lost.

You, me, our families are increasingly relegated to the status of statistics. We seem to be incidental to the redesign of the NHS.

Our voices rarely listened to as hospitals are closed, services transferred and the magical ‘market’ is introduced.

Our only involvement in this whole process appears to be to cause inefficiency by our recurring problems of becoming ill and getting old. Perhaps if only we were not such a burden, the NHS could reach that politicians nirvana of ‘being efficient’. I cannot help think that achieving this in healthcare is akin to having ‘quiet’ in a primary school – something that is possible, but not something that we actually want.

What this video does so well is remind us what healthcare is about.

It reminds us what hospitals are for and why they matter.

It reminds us that however bad our day has been, it is unlikely to compare to that of a doctor  giving his patient a diagnosis that will see his life change forever in those following few minutes.

One that makes the word ‘pension’ redundant.

One that measures lifetimes in weeks.

It reminds us that we are not that patient. At least not today.

Most importantly the video reminds us that healthcare is about people.

Not markets. Not targets. Not performance measures. All these are there and important, but they are there to support the core business – they are not the business.

Perhaps those who want to challenge the latest hatchet-wielding ladder-climbing Junior Health Minister giving a trite soundbite on News at 10 to justify cuts to our NHS should take a lesson from the Cleveland Clinic and focus on what really matters. Instead of duelling with statistics, we should go back to what matters. People. Not in an abstract way. Not in a markets/targets/performance way, but in a human way.

Perhaps pressure groups should engage not with flyers, but with YouTube links. 

Perhaps we should forget reasoned and rational debate and instead go for emotion.

BOLDLY put emotion first.

Why? Because emotion is the most powerful human instinct. If you don’t make a connection with emotion, nothing else matters. The statistics and reasoned arguments can follow, but start with the emotion.

Why? Because emotion, empathy, caring, love is the very essence of what being human is about.

Cleveland Clinic know this works.

Learn from them.


One thought on “Healthcare, empathy, the NHS and the power of video

  1. AHenry

    There is lots to this email. First, are there any NHS facilities that do not handle trauma? That is something not to be under estimated. The Cleveland Clinic and the Mayo Clinic do not have emergency rooms. They are not interrupt driven. So they can schedule a patient for a battery of tests in a single day that might take a different provider days or weeks to perform. They don’t have to triage who is already there with the victims of the 50 car accident that will be rolling through the doors any second.

    Of course my one interaction with the NHS was long ago in the early days of Microsoft’s first attempt at tablet PCs. I was talking to people at the NHS who wanted to replace existing desktops with Windows tablets so try and make doctors look at their patients while they talked and wrote. In the interest of efficiency (there is word!) desktop computers had been put into each office and this gave doctors an excuse not to talk to patients and their families. It turned out the doctors were looking at monitors instead of people while talking and typing.

    Of course this doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement. For example, here in the US much of communications between healthcare providers relies on the patient carrying information between multiple organizations or that bastion of 1980s technology, the fax! I recently had test results sent from one doctor to another via fax. The second doctor gave me a copy – literally – of a fax. There is not much less legible than a copy of a fax. From a records standpoint it was meaningless. Both these doctors work in relatively high tech practices. Both have email (and my email address) and carry tablets or laptops. So why on earth are they using paper faxes to communicate with each other and me? I also have a couple of personal health record (PHR) accounts and giving me some way to connect them to their practices so that data they entered about me automatically flowed into my PHR would be ideal.

    But here is another, more serious example. What is you were on blood thinners pills. For purposes of adjusting the amount taken the doctors would periodically take you off you oral blood thinners and put you onto injectable blood thinners because they leave your system faster. After the proscribed period of time on the injectables (keep in mind twice daily shots in the stomach are required here) the patient goes for her test. And then she waits. And waits. And waits some more. Until she calls her doctor who tells her he never received her test results from the lab (why she had to call him when he was expecting them and not receiving them is another question here). So she calls the lab who neglected to fax them to the doctor and just had them sitting there. What did they think they were supposed to do with the test? Why didn’t they call the patient with the results or ask her what she wanted done with them?

    All of this could have been fixed with technology that has been available for well over 10 years. It would have made the whole process more efficient, less expensive, and much better for the patient.

    This is just one anecdote. I don’t have numbers on how often something like this happens. But sometimes a little efficiency can lead to greater empathy, as it should.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s