Do you have any idea how much power you wield over patients to help them achieve optimal health and wellness? To overcome habits and the habitual conduct that leads to diabetes, cancer, death? Let’s take a walk down to the river and get reconnected to the power of the healthcare provider.
Did you know that there was a time, not so long ago, when a patient found it acceptable for his or her doctor to literally blow smoke into the rectum as a potential cure for apparent drowning?  Of course, this probably wouldn’t fly in modern times. And in fairness, the drowning victim may not have had much time for informed consent. But the point of bringing this up at all, is that you, my dear provider, would be surprised what patients WOULD do if you would just take a minute to tell them to do it. (leeches come to mind).
I wrote this article because I feel that today’s healthcare professionals (you, perhaps) have forgotten the power they wield over the rest of us, and how easy it is to use that power for good. I recently became aware of the true origin of this phrase (blowing smoke . . .) from a successful functional medicine doctor (thanks Mark Tager, MD) at a functional and integrative medicine conference and just had to share it with you. Because if you stop to internalize the impact of what patients have done at their doctors’ request, time after time throughout our history, you’ll be on your way to getting your own patients better results and healthier outcomes in your current, modern practice. And as a result, you’ll also make your practice more successful, efficient and profitable.
Let me explain. I operate a cloud-based digital health guidance platform that health and wellness providers use to lead their patients to better health. In other words, I provide a tool that makes it easy for doctors, coaches and other providers to give patients the diet, exercise, lifestyle and care information patients need to succeed in reaching their health and wellness goals. But even with that tool in their hands, practitioners all too often cop out and blame their patients for not taking charge of their health. But let’s not place so much blame on the patient. Until we’re sure the provider is actually doing his or her part.
On my platform, doctors can give patients a detailed daily plan for diet, exercise, relaxation and overall lifestyle change of any kind. In literally seconds, the provider can enroll a patient into a program that doles out daily advice to guide the patient and even monitor feedback in real time. Occasionally, I’m amazed to hear from a doctor or a coach that his or her patients aren’t complying, engaging, succeeding in their weight loss program, recovery, [insert other protocol you can think of here].
Here’s an actual cop out from a provider we received recently, “We love the platform but compliance is a major issue. I ask patients if they want access to a plan at the time of my consult. They say it sounds great but only a handful that tell me they actually used it. I think a structured wellness plan is a great idea but I don’t want to pester patients to activate their accounts or to be compliant with their weight loss program.”
WAIT? WHAT? WHY NOT?
My answer is always the same. “What are you actually TELLING patients they should do? Who is the expert here?” And what I get back from the unsuccessful provider is eerily consistent. They aren’t really giving the patient ANY help. Or if they are, they’re handing them a few recipes, a book recommendation, the name of a personal trainer, and letting the patient decide what they might like to do. And here’s the kicker. The doctor isn’t following up with the patient and has no plan in place to touch the patient again for weeks, months or even until next year.
The disconnect is that the provider is underestimating his or her power to actually get the patient to comply (succeed) by simply TELLING the patient what to do – specifically. So let’s get back to the issue of blowing smoke. Patients will let you “blow smoke”. They’ll do just about anything you want if you TELL them they need to do it, if you TELL them it will help them and if you TELL them this is part of your PLAN for them. But if you equivocate and fail to don the mantel of the provider, you’re going to have patients that fail.
I know that many in today’s new functional medicine environment will rail against the use of words like TELL, SHOULD, COMPLIANCE because they believe that patients in today’s new paradigm ought to be partners in their care and be fully informed of their options. I agree with that. But the reason they’re coming to YOU, is that they believe that you are the expert, that you have a plan for them, that you have a solution.
Give it to them. Put your white coat back on and own it. When you do, patients will succeed and you’ll become more successful in practice too.
If you’re still trying to figure out how to give patients a plan, and automate the management of that education and patients’ feedback, try the BodySite digital health guidance system and see how easy it is to give your patients everything they need to reach their health goals.
Click here to learn more.
 Hurt, Raymond; Barry, J. E.; Adams, A. P.; Fleming, P. R. (1996), The History of Cardiothoracic Surgery from Early Times, Informa Health Care, ISBN 1850706816
 Lawrence, Ghislaine (2002-04-20), “Tools of the Trade, Tobacco smoke enemas”, The Lancet 359 (9315): 1442, doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(02)08339-3, retrieved 2008-11-27