Most people think that if you can get a patient healthy it will allow them to focus on their wellbeing, but we see it the opposite way: focusing on wellbeing first unlocks better health.
People often seek health care when they’re in vulnerable situations and naturally, providers want to help “fix it”. Doctors, nurses and social workers ask questions about the illness that brought the patient in, how they got hurt or why they aren’t taking their medication. And then we dutifully enter those into the electronic medical record, which asks us to generate a set of diagnoses in the problem list.
It’s easy to get narrowly focused on the problem and the individual medical solutions. Yet when we compartmentalize issues, we miss the full picture of patients’ lives. As a result, we don’t always achieve the health outcomes we seek.
When we shift the dialogue from “What’s the matter with you?” to “What matters to you?” we can open new doors to seeing the whole patient. We’re all driven to meet our needs for wellbeing, but sometimes we make choices for our wellbeing that get in the way of health. That might mean avoiding medication with side effects that limit our time with friends or family. Or it could mean skipping medical appointments due to the lack of medical interpreters.
The more that stands in the way of wellbeing, the harder it is to be healthy.
Learn about how meeting our needs for wellbeing — including social connectedness, safety, stability, mastery, and meaningful access to resources — can improve our health.
Using a wellbeing orientation can help health providers improve outcomes for their patients and for themselves.
In this article from The Center for Health Care Strategies, our Chief of National Engagement and Partnerships Tanya Tucker discusses with why health care systems may benefit from using this approach.
Interested in putting a wellbeing approach into practice in healthcare? Here are some places to start.
Intake and assessment are an essential part of getting an understanding of what’s going on, but traditional approaches are often incomplete and miss patient strengths. Focus on creating a person-centered experience and ask new kinds of questions that don’t lead with the illness that brought the patient in – you will discover the full frame of patients’ lives and unlock new approaches to helping patients get healthy.
Instead of focusing goals on a patient’s disease, try aligning with the patient’s personal goals. Asking patients what matters to them makes it possible to reimagine case plans with their goals at the center, which can help lead to long-term success.
Camden Coalition’s COACH framework empowers patients to take control over their health by developing authentic, healing relationships with practitioners. The Live HealthSmart Alabama initiative partners with local businesses and organizations to increase access to healthy food choices, exercise and healthcare in communities where policy choices have made these options less plentiful. Bread for the City in Washington DC is piloting a “food home” model through collaboration between social services, care management, medical and food teams to reduce food insecurity and improve overall health outcomes.