Not a single day goes by without healthcare in the news at some point. Whatever the story the ultimate aim is always about using the incident, the story, the report or the headline to improve health outcomes. This has got me reflecting about my own journey. Having been a patient for roughly 35 years I have thought back as to what has been the common thread that has led to my best health outcomes.
You all know that I babble on about use of technology or new treatments or new research projects. However on deeper reflection it is my belief that one word underpins everything in respect on improving health outcomes. For me that word is RELATIONSHIP.
Relationship is defined on line as:
the way in which two or more people or things are connected, or the state of being connected.
synonyms:connection, relation, association, link, correlation, correspondence,parallel, tie-in, tie-up, alliance, bond, interrelation, interconnection; More
Let me explain more.
At sixteen I was introduced to a brilliant gastroenterologist by the name of Sir Anthony Dawson. He was very eminent and people said he was scary. He wasn’t he was just very open and honest with me. He treated me like a person and became a mentor as well as my clinician. As a result of my relationship with him a trust was built and we worked together to improve my outcomes.
Sir Anthony introduced me to a surgeon by the name of Peter Hawley. Again it became about the relationship. He never did anything without making sure I knew everything that was happening and was comfortable. Relationship first, surgery second and it incentivised me to get better.
Further down the line I then had an experience with a surgeon that highlighted why relationships matter. I was having a specific test and then due to meet the surgeon to discuss my operation straight after. I arrived a few minutes late after phoning to say my test had been delayed. The surgeon in question walked along the corridor towards me. Saw me and then jumped in to a side room to avoid meeting me. His registrar then came out to tell me he had gone home. The week before that surgery I was due to meet him to discuss everything. I was greeted by his number two who told me he had to go and lecture in the Middle East that week so I could cancel or have him instead. No relationship and I felt left completely out on a limb.
I have gone on to describe at length about my transplant journey and the relationship with my transplant team. That relationship was built by my consultant transplant surgeon at the very first meeting. Anil Vaidya set the tone and his team followed. My treatment every single day was based on a relationship. As a result of that I am doing everything I can to improve my chances of healthy outcomes.
In my last post I talked about undergoing facial surgery. Once again for me this was a very difficult journey to go through. The consultant surgeon Matthew Potter (I need to get him an online profile) had that ability to build a relationship very quickly. He had the ability to deliver difficult news in a clear and friendly way and make me feel very much part of what was going on.
I could name plenty more in my own journey on both sides of my relationship scale. Fundamentally though a great relationship has led to me being a more engaged patient. It undoubtedly leads to a desire to get better quicker and improve your chances of a healthy outcome.
So when our very brightest students embark on med school; when the latest technologies are used and when the latest drugs are developed I would just ask this. You may have all the knowledge in the world. You may have all the tools imaginable at your disposal but if you want me to have the best possible outcome then build a relationship with me. By building that relationship all the well-trodden terms such as self-management, quantified self, remote monitoring and preventing as opposed to treating become possible.
To our politicians and our health leaders this applies to you too. I am not going to try and be a healthier person by you simply telling me what to do. I am though going to do my level best if you build a relationship with me. By that I mean, explain things to me, give me the tools to help myself, let me ask questions if I don’t understand, let me engage. Above all have a relationship with me. Isn’t that going to deliver better health outcomes?
Till next time