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How Empathy Can Help Reduce Hospital Readmissions

Nurse assisting elderly patient to their walker

Empathy is an important part of healthcare. It allows doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers to pause and evaluate a patient’s wellbeing from their point of view. It’s also not an easily acquired skill, which is why it’s a part of the screening process to get into medical school

When it comes to hospitals and health systems, it may not seem like empathy can make a major impact on care. But, when nearly 30% of hospital readmissions are avoidable, it’s worth considering options that dive deeper into the issue. That’s why making empathy a part of a hospital readmission reduction program can be much more impactful than other typical efforts. Here’s what we found.

Enhances Health Outcomes

When a nurse or a doctor looks through an empathic point of view, they are more willing to put their trust in a patient and go at bat for them so that they get the best care possible. Depending on the patient’s condition, that could be the difference between needing to return to the hospital again or not.

While all healthcare professionals should strive to do this, that is easier said than done. During the pandemic, healthcare workers have dealt with more patients than they should. And because patients haven’t been on top of their health due to COVID-19, some may be in a much worse shape than doctors anticipate. With staffing shortages left and right, there aren’t enough workers to care for patients, so workers are spending less time with patients.

But studies have shown that empathy can play a large role in reducing physician burnout, which is why empathy is especially important now in healthcare. Even if the effort is minimal, such as listening to a story about a patient’s beloved family member or hearing out their concerns, it makes a difference. Being an empathic healthcare worker leads to stronger patient health outcomes so that hospitals can prevent readmissions and patients can recover comfortably at home.

Stronger Commitment to Care Plan

When a patient trusts that their doctor or nurse is going to do whatever it takes for them to get better, it changes their willingness to follow through on a care plan.

Think about it: a healthcare consumer might not care because they don’t get the impression their doctor or nurse cares about them. And when that’s the case, they don’t see why they should follow through on their doctor’s care plan. But let’s say their nurse regularly checks in on them, asks how they are feeling and asks if they need anything. And if the nurse has time, they go above and beyond by talking to them about whatever is on the patient’s mind or grabbing a snack the patient likes, without them needing to ask. The patient won’t want to let their nurse down, so if the nurse encourages them to follow their care plan after their hospital stay, they will do it.

Treating patients like people matters and it makes a difference in readmission reduction.

How Psychographics Can Help

It’s hard to see someone from another point of view, let alone communicate and interact with them based on their preferences. For healthcare providers, it seems so much easier to interact with every patient the same way, but in the end, the result leads to alienating many healthcare consumers.

So instead of frustrating people, psychographic segmentation may be the best route to take. The PatientBond Insights Accelerator™ compiles patient profiles including their psychographics, which look at healthcare consumer values, ideals and beliefs to determine what motivates the patient. After completing a quick classifier, healthcare consumers are put into one of five segments that are used to determine what their preferences are for communication and engagement. For example, when a patient gets a message from their provider, every part about that communication is set with them in mind from the text, imagery, when it’s sent, the communications tool and more. With this approach, it’s all about personalization.

Patients want to feel like more than a person in a stack of charts or one of the dozens seen throughout the day. They want to feel like they matter. Taking the time to get to know them and understand their concerns is invaluable in improving health outcomes, including reducing hospital readmissions. It may not be easy, especially if there isn’t much time or the patient is unruly, but it is worth it.

For a better understanding of how to utilize psychographic segmentation to prevent hospital readmissions, read our whitepaper.

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