Why cultural competence in healthcare should come easy

In healthcare marketing, the patient perspective is a powerful thing. Embracing a non-medical perspective on disease state education or clinical trial information can turn dry and uninteresting medical data into engaging content that teaches patients while fostering an ongoing relationship between consumer and brand. In fact, in the case of patients with chronic conditions, effective healthcare marketing solutions can often help them adhere to medications and become more active participants in their recoveries.

However, just because patient perspective, cultural competency and spiritual awareness are all important aspects to be aware of when crafting healthcare marketing materials, that does not guarantee that every advertising agency has the skill and experience to do so. Providers should not settle for anything less than the best, though, especially considering that the healthcare industry has embraced the patient perspective in more ways than just healthcare marketing already.

Doctors have been engaging with patients long before 'patient satisfaction' was a thing.Doctors have been engaging with patients long before 'patient satisfaction' was a thing.

Bedside manner
While the rise of "concierge medicine" has helped house calls make a bit of a comeback, the days when physicians would come see you when you were laid up in bed are long gone. Now, patients have the option to undergo procedures in inpatient or outpatient settings - both areas where doctors are in control both clinically and socially.

While this shift helped advance medical science to its modern level, it may have socially separated clinicians from the patients they serve. In a guest column for KevinMD.com, Molly McPherson, a medical student at the Indiana University School of Medicine, explained that being constantly surrounded by clinical information as opposed to fellow humans can desensitize her to the human impact of certain conditions. While patients may see their disease or injuries as debilitating in regard to their greater lives, physicians may be in danger of becoming too focused on the clinical consequences of each case.

If physicians cannot engage with patients face to face, what hope do providers have in making connections through healthcare marketing materials?

"Patients often bring preconceived notions on medicine and invasive treatments with them into the examination room."

Sensitivity checklist
This is not to say that clinicians have been oblivious to the need for smooth interactions with patients. On the contrary, the recent shift toward patient-centric, value-based care has caused many physicians to rethink the long-term worth of approaching patients with accessible mindsets. However, according to a report penned by researchers from the Idaho Neurological Institute and published in the Journal of Medical Ethics, this may be easier said than done.

To communicate with patients on an intimate level, the researchers explained that clinicians must meld medical information with cultural and spiritual awareness. Patients often bring preconceived notions on medicine and invasive treatments with them into the examination room, so no matter how pressing a given condition may be, physicians need to be aware that cultural considerations may force some people to refuse treatment.

Not every case is so extreme, though, and the INI report noted that clinicians can use a simple checklist to ensure that they are abiding by best practices when it comes to adopting the patient perspective:

  • Identify mode of communication: Every patient has different views on medicine, and they each choose to express their thoughts in different ways. Some people may ask hundreds of questions, while others stay silent - many patients may not even share a language with their physicians. Clinicians need to zero in on how their patients feel most comfortable speaking about their conditions.
  • Be aware of cultural obstacles: Many physicians fail to view their patients as products of a social environment, and the cultural baggage that many people bring with them into their conversations with doctors can have major effects - both positive and negative. If clinicians are to overcome roadblocks to effective interventions, the INI report recommended contacting cultural resource teams or other experts who specialize in the patient perspective.
  • Check for comprehension: Though some patients may say that they understand what they have been told about their conditions and any discharge instructions, occasional nodding and simple affirmative answers may indicate the opposite. Physicians need to find ways to circumvent this reluctance to communicate. Asking patients to summarize information in their own words can be an effective technique to check that they are leaving the care location with a workable knowledge of their conditions.

Though few clinicians will claim that the patient perspective is an inconsequential part of healthcare marketing, it is important to remember that what makes a conversation with a patient effective does the same for healthcare marketing solutions. By adopting the patient perspective and conveying complex information through accessible terms, experienced healthcare advertising agencies can craft engaging and informative materials that are as clinically effective as they are interesting.