Patient Engagement: The New Model in Healing Environments

“Patient engagement is the blockbuster drug of the century”Dr. Fazard Mostashari, Patient Engagement Medicine’s New Blockbuster Drug

What is a Healing Environment? Healing environments began trending in the 80’s. Patients contributed in grassroots efforts. Patient Sue Baier, in her landmark book “Bed Number 10,” implored providers to consider patient needs while providing care. The Planetree organization emerged from Angelica Thieriot seeking to improve on her own negative hospital experience. Hospitals started taking notice, strategies surfaced, changes were made, processes shifted, and healing environments developed as they were found contribute to better patient outcome.

Healing environments were loosely defined as a physical setting or organizational culture that supports patients and families through the stresses imposed by illness. The concept implies that the physical healthcare environment can make a difference in how quickly the patient recovers from or adapts to specific acute and chronic conditions. Architecture claimed the built environment; providers claimed the medical system environment. The patient-centered movement was born and continues today. It is linked to evidence-based design and rooted in neuroscience, environmental psychology and psychoneuroimmunology. The movement has grown beyond the bricks and sticks of the medical building to include patient response to stress, facility operations, safety, links to nature, access to information, family, staff relationships, the well/healthy building and many other components having a direct and indirect impact on the patient care and outcomes.

Twenty years ago, our culture shifted from a service economy to an experiential one, where economic value was placed on the personal experiences, needs, interests and the desire for humanistic interactions. This shift is merging into the healthcare environment and is becoming supported by healthcare organizations and providers. It is no longer about the product but about the experience. Nothing is more personal and impactful than the way you experience your own health, wellness and life.

Decades of economic evolution are leading us to realize that experiences that are personal and memorable can help us maintain strong business models, retain customers and recruit top talent. There is an equally strong parallel in the healthcare environment. Better experiences improve outcomes through patient engagement. Healthcare consumers need to be engaged not just as patients, but as participants in their care.

Today healing environments are not just about a pretty place and a piano in the lobby. Healing environments must address patients as major stakeholders in their own healthcare decisions. This is far greater that just keeping patients happy.

There is a difference between patient satisfaction and patient engagement. Patient satisfaction is meeting the patient’s expectations. Patient engagement requires three key factors. First, there must be a high standard of safety and care. Second, the experience needs to be a consumer-centric retail model of care. Third, a consumer must have convenient access to care. The patient experiences must be supported throughout the entire encounter within the healthcare system.

We are now at the crossroads of the next healthcare disruption - the consumer. Disruption, by its very nature, isn’t linear. The pace of change is accelerating. Patients are demanding a radical new healthcare experience. They want human dignity to be acknowledged and taken seriously. They want knowledge and information necessary to take part in decisions impacting their health and wellness. They want the conveniences that they enjoy in the retail marketplace and the technology that they see in their smart phones. They expect to have healthy buildings and access to wellness for themselves and their families. Consumers are seeking engagement, not as patients, but as participants. This is the next generation of criteria for healing environments. What does it look like?

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