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Finding Waldo is Easier than Finding the Patient

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Remember the children’s book, Where’s Waldo?  As I travel the world and meet with various healthcare organizations and read the plethora of information on the subject, one thing is clear…virtually everyone is talking about “Putting the patient at the center.” Terms like “Patient Centric”, “Patient Engagement”, and related concepts like “Customer Centric” are ubiquitous.  This is definitely the right approach. However, when I look closer at what some of these organizations are doing or suggesting, you may be led to believe that finding Waldo is easier than finding the patient.

A true movement to a people-centered model of health (or patient-centric when applied to the sick or ailing) is really about what the organization or provider does TO the patient, rather than FOR the patient.  It may seem like semantics, but it’s much more than that.  Let me give you an example.

Organizations that adopt a ‘TO the patient’ approach might explore ways to make patients compliant with instructions and care plans.  Conversely, organizations that adopt a ‘FOR the patient’ approach recognize that they have very little control over what the patient actually does (particularly after they leave the doctor’s office). Instead, these organizations explore with the patient what the organization can be doing to support the patient such that the patient wants to be adherent with the care plan.  In psychological terms, the “Locus of Control” has shifted and the organization recognizes they don’t control the patient at all. As a result, they begin designing their entire service delivery around that reality.

The irony of it all is the Locus of Control hasn’t really shifted. The organization has simply recognized where it was all along. And empowering the patient to use that control to his or her own advantage will truly put patients in the center of their own health care.