Policy makers might take issue with the notion of $42 million making a dent in the current healthcare crisis. Especially when that $42 million is earmarked for improving bedside manner.
Yet, the fact of the matter is, more and more studies are proving that better communication between patients and doctors leads to better health outcomes and lower medical costs. Armed with this information, and personal experience, Carolyn and Matthew Bucksbaum donated $42 million to University of Chicago to create The Bucksbaum Institute for Clinical Excellence to improve medical students’ handling of the doctor-patient relationship.
Research shows that patients who had good relationships with their doctors were more likely to follow important health regimens. When you consider the fact that approximately 80 percent of coronary heart disease, up to 90 percent of type 2 diabetes and more than half of cancers could be prevented through lifestyle changes, such as proper diet and exercise, it would seem that $42 million will be money well spent.
In our business of healthcare communications, everything we do revolves around making health information more accessible – to providers, to patients and to caregivers. Whether it’s translating complicated science into patient-friendly materials or creating high-tech apps to help physicians communicate better, if we improve the doctor-patient interaction one moment at a time, outcomes will ultimately improve.
While reaching a wide audience with broad health messages can still be effective in educating and motivating key patient populations, real change is often effected on a much smaller scale. And it often occurs at that critical “time is money” moment when healthcare providers need to squeeze in one more patient, one more visit. It’s about hearing better, listening more and communicating more effectively. Literally, it’s about talking our way to better health outcomes.
Forty-two million dollars may not be enough to erase the debt this country faces with regard to healthcare costs, but it has the potential to change the face of healthcare as we know it. In the end, that may be worth a whole lot more.