National Safety Month: Opportunities for Improving Patient Outcomes
June is upon us, which means it’s National Safety Month. While patient safety should be at the center of virtually all health care initiatives, this national observance presents a perfect opportunity to take a step back and make sure the patient truly does come first.
It’s a situation where everyone wins — health care consumers, facilities and physicians all stand to benefit from a safety-centric model that helps improve efficiency and patient welfare.
Improving Patient Education
At the very least, this particular observance presents an opportunity for health care practitioner to step up their patient education programs, providing more detailed information on the steps patients can take — like following their prescribed medication regimens — to keep their health in optimal shape. And as Safety Month rolls along, health care outlets should also take the opportunity to explain to patients what they are doing as an institution to improve health outcomes.
Not only is this a great way to remind patients that they are valued, but it can also serve as a way for hospitals and practices to promote their innovations.
The idea is to create a culture of wellness, one that progresses well beyond Safety Month and becomes part of the everyday operation.
Understanding the Patient Mindset
One problem that complicates a plan to increase patient safety measures is the fact that not all patients are created equal. Patients differ in more than health conditions, age, gender and race — each patient has their own set of motivators and barriers to positive behavior change. A message sent to one group may be ineffective with another; worse, it could be interpreted the wrong way, creating more harm than goodwill.
While you could, theoretically, take the time to create an individualized message for each of your patients, but this is not, perhaps, the best use of your time.
The best solution here would be to adopt the practice of retail marketers and segment your patient population into groups of health care consumers for whom you can customize messages—a move that can helps to bolster the bond between a patient and physician without turning into a time-sink.
A common way to segment any group is to break it down by the most basic characteristics of the individuals in the group. Age and gender are two of the more prominent segmenting criteria, and in many instances, they work quite well. Unfortunately, health care is not one of these instances. Doing so assumes all males, or all females, or everyone in a given age range think and act alike.
The key to reaching health care consumers is identifying their motivations and speaking to people within that motivational framework.
Most people understand what comprises healthy behavior, but not everyone is identically motivated to embrace what’s right. It’s not uncommon, for example, to see a busy working mother put off her health needs in favor of her children and spouse. She’ll make absolutely sure that her loved ones’ safety is assured, but she may cut corners on her own needs. This individual wouldn’t respond to the more basic messages about personal health sent to her demographic, because she has other priorities. However, her needs are just as valid as those of any other patient, and it’s up to the health care professional to find a way to balance this equation.
Segmenting based on psychological profiles (psychographics) takes care of this problem. It moves beyond basic demographic data and digs deeper into what makes your patients tick. In the end, people receive a message that they can understand; even better, they feel good about having a physician that understands them, making them even more loyal. Best of all, the messages sent during Safety Month have a better chance of striking a chord with the recipients, creating a healthier environment that helps patients and physicians alike.
Safety Month is a great time to remind patients and staffers that patients come first, and their welfare is paramount to the success of any practice or facility. However, the messages sent must be spoken in terms that are naturally understood by health care consumers of all types. Psychographic profiles can make this seemingly impossible task much easier, giving doctors the chance to better educate patients about what they can do to improve their own situations.