Almost daily for the past two months, we have heard stories of the challenges that clinicians are facing because of COVID-19. Even before the pandemic, the task of humanizing healthcare was instrumental in ensuring that patients could receive essential care while maintaining their dignity. Now, at a time when patients—many of whom are vulnerable, such as the elderly and those with preexisting conditions—are having to deal with the restrictions of a socially distanced world, protecting that humanity is more important than ever.
The purpose of this article is to explain how virtual health can help clinicians provide their patients with complete, empathic care and to offer some strategies for keeping patient dignity intact.
How Virtual Health Is Humanizing Healthcare
Despite the perception that virtual health technology removes the human-to-human connection between clinicians and patients, the tools that we have at our disposal today actually help to further humanize healthcare. Virtual health services and technologies allow for care that is better informed and personalized to meet everyone’s needs. Some applications that hospitals and clinics have already implemented include:
- Information sharing between physicians for improved continuous care
- Remote patient monitoring for better insight into patients’ health
- Telehealth to increase patient access to care
- Care management processes for improved patient understanding of their treatment plan
More than merely a way for patients to meet with their providers over videoconference software, virtual health technologies allow for remote care that complements in-person visits and treatments. With better access and understanding, patients are able to advocate for themselves and receive care without having to visit a healthcare facility.
As we have seen recently, a drastic increase in patient visits can quickly overwhelm physicians and nurses. Virtual health also frees time for clinicians to provide care for more patients, which can lower the incidence of physician burnout and nurse burnout, creating an environment that fosters best practices for clinician-patient interactions.
How Clinicians Can Continue Humanizing Healthcare during and after COVID-19
Even when the world is not in the middle of a pandemic, being a clinician is intellectually and emotionally challenging work. In almost no other profession is death such a regular occurrence. Yet, those who take care of people’s health are expected to carry out mentally rigorous tasks while real suffering takes place right in front of them. It’s no wonder that patient dehumanization is so common.
When we say “humanizing healthcare,” this is what we are talking about—making sure that we treat everyone with the dignity and respect that any human deserves. Though that can be difficult psychologically, maintaining that respect is possible with a few simple steps. Created by Sam Brown, M.D., of the Center for Humanizing Critical Care, the “dinner party” rules are easy to put into practice:
- Always knock before entering a patient’s room.
- Ask for permission before touching a patient, especially when treatment requires touching that might be uncomfortable.
- Speak to coma patients as if they can hear you.
- Incorporate and involve loved ones in patient treatment when possible.
When you are treating a patient, putting yourself in their position can help you empathize. Imagine how little control they have over their situation. By doing these little things, you can give them some agency to create a better treatment experience. According to Dr. Brown, “What is highest in us as human beings is our capacity to think and to care and to honor.” We agree with that statement.
Talk to us today if you are interested in learning more about implementing virtual health solutions in your practice.