A shift in mindset
Dr Shalini Ratan
Healthcare today is unlike that of yesterday. Today, a medical professional has to face
various challenges like coping with the demands of evolving healthcare services, difficulty in achieving patient satisfaction who are evolving as consumers and overcoming hurdles in practice. Professionals now need to re-think the effectiveness of doctor-patient relationship, be able to understand basic principles of medical practice management, familiarize themselves with healthcare marketing techniques and also acquire soft skills to effectively manage the current situation. All of these therefore require a shift in the mindset of the healthcare providers.
Healthcare professionals face a number of challenges in today’s evolving healthcare environment. This can be attributed to the introduction of new techniques, corporate hospitals, changing mindset of patients and current medical practices. The healthcare market is growing at a rapid pace. Moreover, various hospital projects are slated to begin this year. These changes bring in the need for increasing enrollment of doctors & nurses in medical colleges and nursing schools in the coming years. In this scenario of emerging healthcare, doctorpatient relationship is becoming a transaction oriented practice. Media awareness has increased among patients with regard to medical malpractices, along with the rise in the number of internet-savvy patients who have started questioning the healthcare providers. Further, the corporate hospitals are now presenting a challenge to individual practitioners. At the same time, the potential recipient of healthcare, ie the patient, is evolving as a healthcare consumer and is not just an individual in a disease state. They have demands similar to those of any other service industry consumer. Therefore, the management of the current healthcare environment requires a
‘mindset shift’. Healthcare professionals invest almost a decade to become professionals through rigorous studies & trainings in technical education & internship. However, during the course of this training, the formal medical education system fails to train the doctors in some key skill areas. In order to be highly effective, a doctor needs to learn the art of communication with patients, build a compassionate doctor–patient relationship and be highly efficient in operational skills. Again, since doctors are not groomed in a corporate environment, they need to refine their skills to become Medical Entrepreneurs.
Role of doctors as clinicians Enhancing a doctor-patient relationship is an area of importance today, as it needs to move on from a ‘disease-centric approach’ to a
‘patient-centric approach’. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as “A state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and does not consist only of the absence of disease or infirmity.” According to this definition, for a doctor to be referred to as a ‘Healthcare Provider’, he should provide care for the overall health of the patient rather than addressing only the disease. It is more about managing the patient as a ‘whole’.
As an adage goes, ‘Curing disease needs knowledge and treating a patient needs wisdom’. Therefore, there is a need for a transformation from knowledge to wisdom.
Good communication with patients, family members, caregivers, consultants and referring physicians is absolutely crucial for a sound patient care. According to various studies, byproducts of enhanced communication include improved health outcomes, better patient compliance, reduction in medico-legal risk and improved satisfaction for both clinicians and patients. Failure in providing excellent healthcare communication can lead to an undesirable effect on patient outcome, patient loyalty and reputation of the treating physician. Effective empathetic communication enhances the therapeutic effectiveness of the doctor-patient relationship. It is a learnable skill that has tangible
benefits for both the clinician patient.
Obtaining the knowledge and skills required to perform psychosocial counselling and diseaseprevention, patient interventions is another important area for consideration. Doctors are in an ideal position to offer education and counselling to patients, with
the purpose of preventing and/or controlling disease, better compliance and understanding of the mindbody connection of patients. Patient evolving as a healthcare consumer. Knowledge & understanding of the needs of patients and their families is now more crucial than ever for providing exceptional patient service. Today, medical practice is driven by the combination of patient experience and perception of services provided
to them. This would ultimately help in winning patient loyalty, which indicates commitment to consult a particular medical service provider. Today, a patient demands basic & value-added services from a medical practitioner. Basic attributes like medical expertise of the doctor, modern equipment and procedures are required to retain a patient. Valueadded services providing personal care for a patient’s physical and emotional needs, comfortable stay, communication with the patient, etc, are highly valuable
to create a bond between the doctor and patient. For a patient to become loyal, the ability of the doctor to treat the ailment becomes a basic requirement, while physical & psychological comfort becomes value issues. Therefore, the role of a medical
practitioner today is not only of a clinician and an academician but also of a manager and
executer of excellent medical services.
Role of doctors as practice managers
Now is the time to create clinical leaders who besides having an ethical and moral duty to
the patient also have essential management skills. Doctors should adopt medical practice
management systems to excel in today’s competitive world. It has now become a
matter of being able to integrate managerial and clinical responsibilities in the most
Providing quality care: The leaders must focus on providing quality service.
Quality involves building core competencies of healthcare professionals, patient-centric care, working in team to ensure that care is continuous & reliable, managing processes and systems of healthcare delivery.
Managing the healthcare team
Healthcare is driven not only by the clinicians but the entire healthcare team. In order to
provide complete quality care, the healthcare team comprises a number of other skilled
personnel, eg nurses, secretaries, staff, therapists, pharmacists, dietitians, social workers, various technicians and sometimes even family members.
The doctor is the main decision-maker with required leadership qualities.
For becoming efficient, the medical staff would require training to develop good interpersonal skills, self-initiative, sensitivity and the ability to work with very ill patients. There is a need to equip the staff with an understanding of hospital protocols and processes, infection prevention techniques and managing highrisk patients. Empowering the staff would give them an opportunity to realise their full potential.
Doctors and other healthcare providers generally misunderstand the concept of marketing in medicine, often mistaking it with advertising. Information-based marketing describes the capabilities, policies and procedures of medical practice. It gives a perception of professionalism, recognition for the practice and increased visibility, leading to increased customer satisfaction and referrals.
Marketing implies creating a place in the minds of patients with regard to the uniqueness
offered by the medical practice.
Understanding technological change
The Internet age is bringing a transformation in the doctor-patient relationship. There is a
need for empowering and engaging patients in this technology-driven era. This is for
assisting patients in the information gathering process to obtain accurate and valid medical information. Doctors need to become counselors to help patients take care
The role of technology in healthcare is increasing not only in the area of medical diagnosis and treatment, but it has also been documented that information technology
effectively contributes to cost saving by ways of administrative & clinical data processing and health information systems.
Today, a doctor needs to have the knowledge and expertise of medicine as well as equip himself with information and tools that help him in managing his clinic. This would give an overall healthcare experience to patients and enhance the professional image of the clinic.
The bottomline is that, today, a doctor requires the mastery of a complex body of knowledge, patient service skills as well as the art and humanism of medicine. This can be achieved by revamping the doctor–patient relationship, from being a healthcare advisor to the patient and not just a provider, to developing corporate thinking by opening to new learnings and branding medical practice by using avenues to promote themselves in an ethical manner.