We have been brought up in a society that teaches us to rely on doctors, because they know the scientific approach to health. Doctors have gone to school for a long, intense education, but patients have not been taught how to be active and conscious patients. I want to propose that the high recidivism rate of hospital admissions has a lot to do with not empowering patient participation.
When you look at the new health care law, it requires hospitals to reduce their readmissions of discharged patients. According to an article in the October, 2011, American Medical News, “Hospitals make almost no headway in cutting readmissions.” Researchers affiliated with Dartmouth Institute’s Atlas of Health Care examined the records of all 10.7 million Medicare patient hospital discharges from July 1, 2003 to June 30, 2009 and found little progress. They concluded, “Irrespective of the cause, unnecessary hospital readmissions lead to more tests and treatments, more time away from home and family, and higher health care costs.”
Along with its report, Dartmouth released a tip sheet for patients when leaving the hospital. The guide advises patients to ask for post-discharge planning help while still in the hospital and write a plan that captures elements such as expected discharge date, scheduled follow-up appointments, medication list, needed medical equipment and how to respond to anticipated symptoms.
Too often, when we look at empowering patient participation, we look at what the patient has to do to stay out of the hospital. I believe we need to focus on how a patient actively participates. We can do this by teaching practical life skills, like developing a positive self-image, self-trust and a way of consciously connecting to inner resources.
When a person has a positive self-image, they feel more worthy of healing. A person with a negative self-image too often has sub-conscious sabotaging programs that limit the healing process. Every time we think, our thoughts are directed to our self-image. If we have a positive self-image, we get positive responses. A negative self-image too often gives limiting responses.
In the Journal of the American Medical Association, it stated that the attitude a patient walks into the doctor’s office with determines receptivity of the doctor’s treatment. A positive self-image has the ability to better receive the doctor’s treatments.
Another important life skill that needs to be developed to reduce recidivism is self-trust. If a patient trusts themself, they will be more able to tap inner resources to be an active partner with their doctor. Without self-trust, a patient will naturally look outside to solve their problems. In the case of poor health, the hospital would be a normal place to go.
When a patient trusts themself, their experience sends them a clear and powerful message. When they share that with the doctor, that partnership becomes more effective. This eliminates one-way communication from doctor to patient. The optimal communication between doctor and patient is where the patient can accurately articulate their problem and the doctor responds with his medical knowledge. In a conscious partnership, if the patient does not agree or has questions, they are more likely to confidently speak up.
A third important life skill is conscious breathing. We become more aware of what our breath breathes into; it is like our breath gives life to what we breathe into. If we breathe into anxious thoughts, we will give life to a limiting part of us. If we could breathe into the silence beyond our thoughts, we could give life to what I call ‘The Wisdom of the Body.’ This is where inner resources are found to make the patient’s role more powerful. When the patient’s inner resources partner with the doctor’s treatments, there are better healing results.
My book, “A Healthy Way to Be Sick,” helps you to be aware and conscious during a hospital stay. In the book, you develop several life skills that help you tap inner resources to become an active patient, instead of a victim.
© 2015 Marc Lerner