Every patient is unique and deserves the best care customized to his/her special wishes and needs. Unfortunately, 15% of the patients feel not seen and heard. Patients also encounter an information gap within the fragmented care process. Up to 80% of the medical information will be lost and will be misunderstood by the patient. The estimated cost in the Netherlands of this misunderstandings are about 350 million euro every year.
On the other hand, healthcare providers experience an increasing workload. Scarcity of quality time with the patient, but also emotional burdens diminish the wellbeing of the healthcare providers. This may lead to stress and burnout of healthcare providers. Stress and empathy don’t go along very well. During the medical education the amount of empathy declines.
To tackle both problems, we have created and tested a prototype of an educational intervention to teach medical students empathic behaviors by acting as a medical coach (a MedGezel), guiding a patient in obtaining a patient-centered doctor’s consultation. To become a coach for others you have to first look at your own beliefs, wishes and challenges. As such, our medical coach training consists of two crucial components: getting to know yourself and getting to know the patient. After the medical coach training, the MedGezel prototype of empowering patients consists of three stages:
1: before the consultation with the doctor, the medical students connect with the patients to discuss their personal wishes, needs and challenges. The medical students prepare the patients by rehearsing the most important questions.
2: During the consultation with the medical specialist, the medical students act as a guide and buddy for the patient.
3: After the consultation the medical students repeat the most prominent features of the medical talk and the students make sure that everything is well understood by the patients. They also make sure that the feelings and concerns of the patient are met with dignity and respect. The coach trajectory is concluded with an easy-to-understand written report for the patients.
100 medical students selected from all the medical faculties in the Netherlands, were voluntarily trained as medical coaches and guided approximately 130 patients during their care trajectory in 4 Dutch hospitals. Special emphasis was on compassionate interactions with the patients by deep listening and personal attention to the lives of the patients. We measured the experiences of the participants. 90% of the patients were enthusiastic and 100% would recommend a MedGezel to other patients. The patients experience more knowhow and are more conscious of the effect of a medical intervention on their personal lives. The doctor is more reassured that his information is well understood. In this way, the MedGezel intervention enhances the process of Shared Decision Making (SDM), which gives more opportunities for person-centered care and well-being of doctors and patients.
As far as we know, MedGezel is the first healthcare innovation in the world with medical students in the role of medical coaches. This concept may have huge implications for future empathy based and personalized healthcare.