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3 consequences of a passive patient

As a provider, building relationships with your patients plays a key role in delivering effective care.

As more research emerges proving the positive outcomes of patient engagement, like increased compliance with care plans and better health outcomes, more providers are allocating energy and resources into figuring out how they can build relationships with patients that encourages their self-advocacy and engagement.

After suffering a Traumatic Brain Injury in a car accident, I experienced firsthand the importance of finding a provider that places a focus on promoting patient action and engagement over passivity.

During my year-long journey to find the right neurologist, I experienced two doctors that expected me to take a passive approach and, in their own ways, discouraged me from being actively engaged in the management of my own healthcare.

One of my first neurologists spent only five minutes in the examination room with me and promptly walked out the door when I brought out a list of questions I had prepared to better understand my condition. Another neurologist, when I asked how I could work toward recovery, told me point blank that I would never be physically capable of work again so it wasn’t worth trying.

Neither of those doctors invited me to take an active role in my recovery, the first by treating me  like he had better things to do with his time and brushing off my questions, and the other by giving a diagnosis so dispiriting it could have effectively ended my will to continue trying.

As a patient, I knew I needed and deserved excellent care, so I left both of those providers in search of a better one.

Finding the Right Provider

When a patient doesn’t receive care where their participation is valued, they have complete freedom to choose another provider.

And they should!

This is one of the consequences for providers when patients aren’t encouraged to be actively engaged.

The world of healthcare is competitive and patients have options; creating or allowing an environment of passivity can result in losing patients to providers who prioritize the opposite.

The Impact of Partnership

After a year of searching, I found a neurologist that not only encouraged my participation and questions, but required me to play an active role in my recovery.

If a patient didn’t agree to strict daily adherence to their healthcare plan, he respectfully told them he wasn’t the right doctor for them. It wasn’t until I began under his care that I started seeing positive progress in my health.

This illustrates a second consequence of a patient who is allowed to be (or made to be) passive in their care—poor health outcomes.

A year of potential recovery was wasted while I searched for someone who would listen to me, communicate thoroughly and engage me in my recovery, and my health suffered because it was so hard to find.

Impersonal, one-size-fits-all care that doesn’t create space for patients to be truly activated leads to tired patients and fewer positive health outcomes. Care that is mutually active, like my neurologist required, gets good results.

Spreading the Word

When I meet others who are suffering from a TBI, I’m always happy to listen to their experience and recommend the doctor who helped me so much. When you know what it’s like to have a poor experience with healthcare, it makes you that much more motivated to refer others in your community to a provider that can meet your needs.

Patients wrestling with similar health challenges frequently find one another and build a community, which makes word-of-mouth reputation is critical to your success as a provider.

When patients don’t feel heard or encouraged by their provider, they talk about it with others.

Patients have the influence to either help build your patient base through positive reviews, or to discourage others from seeking your care.

You can either build your reputation significantly through delivering quality care that engages and activates, or you can lose potential patients.

The Opportunity

For healthcare to be truly effective, it’s vital for providers to engage their patients and work hard to discourage passivity.

When patients aren’t engaged, there can be serious consequences to both patients and providers, which is why it’s critical to put systems in place that help you prove yourself and your practice to be a reliable, caring, communicative resource for your patients.

Building relationships that activate, rather than enable or encourage passivity, attracts more patients to your practice and makes relationships with current patients more successful.