Understanding Patient Needs — An Ongoing Task

India is a developing country and we feel proud to be a witness to this blossoming process in India, especially to evolutions in the healthcare sector which is the basic requirement of a citizen of any country. The healthcare sector is a massive field, where India has successfully become a healthcare hub in the world. Among these, doctors and hospitals play an important role and constitute the ‘core’ of this entire circle.

As medical evolutions are continuously taking place in multiple manners and rapidly, a need has emerged for a way to accommodate calibration for patients for their maximum assistance & satisfaction. While the focus of healthcare providers is clearly turning patient-oriented, there are certain needs of patients that might be beyond the purview of the healthcare facility

In an era of digitization and expansion of each branch of medicine, the touchpoints between a doctor and patient have increased, which are necessary and unavoidable, but often confusing for a new patient, especially from overseas. These overseas patients need handholding and personalized support. While the doctors have been going out of their way to find time and be flexible in their availability, with their busy schedules, it becomes impossible to address the individual needs of patients beyond a certain limit.

Especially when it involves counseling, motivating, and keeping them positive throughout their treatment. These intangible needs can neither be defined nor accounted for, but have started playing a crucial role in the treatment and its effectiveness. Let’s review these needs and understand their role in influencing patient convenience.

Patient Needs are Not Limited to Receiving the Treatment

According to research published in The Health Science Journal (Vol 5, issue 1, 2011), “The ‘Patient’s need’ is a dynamic concept that changes over time and with disease progression. A commonly held view is that the patient’s needs vary according to the spirituality and cultural traditions of the patients.”

This study revealed that some of the most important needs of hospitalized patients are those that can’t be quantified but yet cannot be ignored:

  • Trust
  • Communication
  • Information
  • Education
  • Self-care
  • Support

The main challenge in fulfilment of these needs is the lack of time, as far as health professionals are concerned. With regards to patients, these needs vary depending on the severity of the disease, age of the patient, personality, educational background, and many such factors.

Trust and Communication

The relationship between healthcare professionals and patients must be dynamic and interactive. Trust building is an essential component towards a harmonious relationship, leading to cooperation from the patient, to generate positive results from the treatment. It is a known fact that one’s belief strongly influences one body’s response to treatment. Communication with patients and their families, whether instructive or precautionary, is very important for understanding their health condition and plan of treatment. It also impacts patient’s understanding of their treatment, helps them accept their condition, and motivates them to comply with instructions. For patients, this communication acts as therapy.

While patients require assurance and time from their doctor, some end up expecting more time and effort than necessary or practically possible. The healthcare professional has limitations of maintaining professional boundaries and not getting too emotionally invested, to be able to plan and carry out the best treatment plan from a neutral point of view. Other challenges in maintaining consistent communication are the stress and fatigue experienced by both patients and doctors at times. This can lead to loss of information, non-compliance by patients, and non-reporting of important symptoms by patients, etc. Trust and effective communication are among the most important needs of patients as well as healthcare professionals.

Information

The degree of information shared with patients by medical staff has increased considerably. From informing the patients only what was necessary, to the effort towards maintaining complete transparency, healthcare has come a long way. However, the need for information by patients is not limited to questions regarding the disease & treatment. From discussing possible risks and side effects to problems associated with day-to-day activities, including financial concerns. The ability to understand and accept certain information also varies in patients. Which might require a personalized approach to be able to transfer important information in a constructive manner.

Education

Education, in this case, refers to the acquired knowledge and skills necessary to maintain and improve one’s health. Healthcare professionals are giving a lot of importance to individual education programs for patients and their primary caregivers. The idea is to change patients’ behavior and attitude towards their health and encourage their participation in self-care by acquainting them with risks, precautions, and alternate healthy lifestyle options. The success of this depends on the patient’s participation, which varies with their goals, personal beliefs, and understanding ability. Healthcare professionals can try to adapt their methods and pace based on patient’s understanding.

Self-Care

Patients’ involvement in self-care depends on the extent of their understanding and participation in decision-making. Their idea of receiving quality care depends on the degree to which they can participate in their treatment therapy. However, some patients might show reluctance due to lack of knowledge, lack of interest, or doubt in the effectiveness of the therapy. Their active participation adds an element of consistency and positivity that contributes to the effectiveness of the treatment. Hence, this need has to be strengthened within patients.

Support

Hospitalization is a stressful and emotionally draining time wherein patients need ample support from family, health professionals, and acquaintances. The majority of patients need more support after discharge when they are not surrounded by a team of professionals and may feel lost. Some may reach out but many may not. The onus is on family and healthcare providers to identify this need and facilitate a system where patients can cope well during their recovery. This need varies based on adaptation, emotional impact on patient and family support. Their support needs can range from structural support to functional support. Structural support refers to the intensity, frequency, and quality of contact with the supportive network of people surrounding the patient. Functional support includes financial and emotional support, information provision, assessment of their condition, and general assistance provided towards achieving their goals.

Maslow’s Need Hierarchy

Maslow’s theory of ‘hierarchy of needs’ explains how human motivations and what they are seeking is usually based on where they stand in terms of their need fulfilment.

Once the basic needs are covered and they feel safe in the hands of medical experts, patients begin to seek fulfilment of their psychological needs. Thus, looking for positivity, counseling, reassurance, trust, and belongingness.

Healthcare Includes Fulfilling the Intangible Needs of Patients

Indian doctors are among the most qualified and experienced and have access to advanced technology and research on specialized treatments. Our healthcare infrastructure is equipped to fulfil the treatment needs of patients. As the basic needs of patients are being fulfilled, they are gradually moving up the ‘need hierarchy’. They are beginning to expect constant support, communication, and assurance. Undermining these needs of hospitalized patients often impacts the outcome of the treatment negatively. The time when patients left everything to doctors and did not understand the technicalities of treatment is far behind us. Patients today have a desire & expectation to participate in their treatment plan.

It often helps if personalized support is extended from someone within the healthcare network who can provide updates, guidance, and care. This can immediately address the emotional needs of patients. This might be a good time to look into a framework that empowers patients with emotional support, along with information, resources, and assistance at every step. Personalized healthcare assistance is a realistic solution to the growing need of patients to be aware and involved at every step of their treatment.

Patient empowerment is the need of the hour. Healthcare providers are now realizing that they are partners in a patient’s treatment cycle. To be able to create an ecosystem where patients feel included and enabled to make informed decisions, every action needs to come from a place of empathy. The assessment of the emotional needs of patients is now becoming an integral part of the treatment process. This process starts as early as diagnosis, to the treatment cycle, and continues after discharge from the hospital. The future of healthcare is in establishing a system that caters to a patient’s sensitive needs along with their multitude of healthcare concerns to achieve an exceptional patient experience. As healthcare professionals, we must remember our end goal at all times — to serve patients.

To learn more about Vrozart Health, please subscribe to our Medium Channel.

Stay tuned for more news & updates on our Linkedin page

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Vrozart Health

Vrozart Health

Vrozart Health is India’s pioneering medical convenience brand & a trusted name in healthcare, empowering patients to have a better life.