3 Ways to Improve the Healthcare Experience
In the healthcare environment, many physician challenges can be traced directly back to resource constraints. One of the biggest constraints is time, which is often a detriment both to patients and healthcare providers. Due to time restrictions, healthcare providers can quickly become desensitized and less responsive to patient suffering. This directly conflicts with the original intent of a healthcare provider – to recognize and ease suffering.
It’s problematic at a fundamental level when healthcare providers become distracted by the stressors in their workplace environment at the expense of patient care. However, by actively cultivating mindfulness, healthcare providers can not only improve their own workplace experience, but also patient care and outcomes.
I sat down with Dr. Leah Weiss of the Stanford Graduate School of Business to discuss the ways that healthcare providers can apply more mindfulness at work.
According to Dr. Weiss, mindfulness can be defined as the “intentional use of attention.” In other words, it’s making the conscious choice to frame your environment and focus your attention where it needs to be in the moment, or on the task at hand. Regularly practicing mindfulness extends far beyond your own perceptions, attitudes, and behaviors. When health care providers deliberately focus their attention differently, it significantly impacts their care teams, patients, and families.
One of the ways that mindfulness applies in healthcare lies not only in reshaping perceptions around workload and time crunch, but also how we interpret our situation. When we are able to more effectively metabolize our stress, we are able to make better, stronger connections with patients through truly understanding their problems and concerns. In turn, when patients feel that their healthcare providers are personally invested in them, patient satisfaction and healthcare outcomes improve.
However, system design extends beyond the provider/patient relationship. Stressors around the administrative, bureaucratic, and cross-functional friction significantly feed the environmental toxicity and burn out pandemic among physicians and other healthcare provider functions.
At a root level, innovation is not just about focusing on the external environment, though the importance of that can’t be negated. It’s also about purposely supporting the internal habits of focus and response and how those in turn impact the patient care ecosystem. How can healthcare providers tap into the benefits of mindfulness in the workplace?
With embodiment, we practice bringing attention to our bodies in order to anchor ourselves in reality. It starts with taking a deep breath and then focusing on each in and out breath.
Scanning the body through the breath (moving from the top of your head to the tip of your toes with each in and out breath) brings awareness back to the physical body.
Meta-cognition involves the practice of knowing what we are experiencing while we are experiencing it. It’s important to be able to pay attention to what you are feeling, experiencing, and doing while you are in the moment. Within the context of the healthcare provider’s environment, successful metacognitive regulation is centered around three essential skills: planning, monitoring, and evaluation. When healthcare providers can effectively regulate their meta-cognition, they can deploy a reflective approach to problem solving that involves visualizing a problem through a prescribed framework to remain focused and mindful.
Creating focus entails placing our attention where we want it. Creating rituals to devise prompts that remind us to be aware of our focus can be helpful. Pick something that you do every day, and it will remind you to pay attention. Start with focusing on just one thing that you are doing.
While there’s plenty of technology in the healthcare provider workplace intended to streamline workflows, it can also be a significant source of frustration and distraction. It’s clear that there’s plenty to be done that doesn’t always involve cutting-edge technological tools and products to improve the health care provider’s workplace experience. For this reason, FutureBrand Speck has combined expertise in brand strategy, user insights, and experience design, to provide innovative solutions across all industries.
Leah Weiss, Ph.D., MSW, is a founding faculty member of the CCARE/Compassion Institute Compassion and Cultivation Program, the author of 'How We Work' (recently launched), a mindfulness and compassion cultivation researcher, corporate leadership consultant, and the lecturer behind the popular 'Leading With Mindfulness and Compassion' course at Stanford. Leah is a fellow of FutureBrand Speck.