Patients Can Achieve Lasting Results
Start With Your Own Mindset
While it may seem clear that a patient’s mindset can have a huge impact on their health journey, if you want your patients to have the greatest probability of success, there’s another set of attitudes, impressions, and assumptions you need to examine: your own. Unfortunately, in the landscape of today’s broken healthcare system, certain erroneous ideas have become so commonplace that both practitioners and patients believe that they are the norm. Even more unfortunate is that these ideas are often in direct conflict with each other.
A typical patient believes ideas like these:
- You should only see a doctor when you are sick
- Doctors “fix” people
- Insurance should cover all medical treatment
In contrast, many practitioners believe:
- Patients don’t care about their health
- Patients don’t take responsibility for their bad health
- Patients won’t pay for their medical costs
When both parties come to the (exam) table with these opposing beliefs, it’s no wonder that there is often conflict. I’m not saying you regularly argue with your patients, or even that you do a poor job of treating them. But until you and your patients have aligned mindsets, you will struggle to understand each other. You will have different expectations for treatment, will look for different outcomes, and ultimately will have a high likelihood of being disappointed by each other. So let’s take a closer look at these opposing mindsets and find a way to bridge the gap.
In Sickness and in Health
Today’s healthcare system (one that is controlled by interests like insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, and governmental bureaucracies) prizes the sickness model over the wellness model. This means people are essentially taught, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” This means that unless a person has an acute injury, symptoms that won’t go away, or troubling lab results, visiting a doctor or other practitioners doesn’t even occur to them.
One survey of American men found that nearly 60% of men “only go to the doctor when they feel sick or have an accident.”1 Further, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention acknowledges that 86% of the nation’s healthcare expenditures are spent on chronic diseases.2 Such is the result of the pervasive sickness model. Under this model, it’s not surprising that most – if not all – of your current patients are seeking reactive, rather than proactive, care. This understandably leads to the practitioner’s mindset that patients don’t care about their health. If all you are seeing, all day long, are patients with mile-long lists of complaints instead of questions about how to remain healthy, it’s easy to slip into the mindset that patients aren’t interested in proactive care.
Here is where your mindset must come into play. Instead of thinking patients don’t care, embrace the mindset that patients don’t know. With this swap in mindset, instead of simply bemoaning your patients’ need for reactive care, you can actively help them change. Through the care in your practice as well as pre-education events, you can teach your patients and the community at large about the difference between proactive and reactive care. Not only will your frustrations with your patients lessen, but your patients will have the opportunity to change. Together, you can both work toward a healthier life that embraces the mindset that you should see a doctor to help you stay healthy.
Clients, Not Patients
In the same survey of American men, more than half of the respondents said they “see a doctor when something needs to be ‘fixed.’” This is an interesting idea. The word “fix” itself implies that the problem will be eliminated.
This is a high bar for a practitioner! To a patient with a “fix it” mindset, only a complete cure will satisfy. It also implies that the patient is a passive participant in the process. Imagine a car with a dented fender after an accident. A repair shop will knock out the dent or replace it, leaving it looking good as new. The fender won’t repair itself – the mechanic does it. The issue is that people sometimes don’t understand that they’re not a fender or set of brakes. They’ve been trained to think that a doctor will fix them, just like an auto mechanic would.
Again, it’s easy to see how, when faced with these unrealistic expectations, practitioners react with their own mindset that patients don’t take responsibility for their bad health. It feels like patients are holding you responsible – especially when your treatments don’t magically make the problem go away.
The solution is to help people change their mindset from that of a patient to that of a client. The difference between these terms, as found in the dictionary, is illuminating. Merriam-Webster defines a patient as “an individual awaiting or under medical care and treatment.”3 In contrast, a client is “a person who engages the professional advice or services of another.”4
Do you see the subtle difference? In one, the person is waiting – they’re the object to be acted on. In the other, the person is engaging – they’re actively working with someone who advises but doesn’t fix. Help people understand that becoming your client means that they will be engaging in their own care. It will enable them to take responsibility. Gone will be the expectation that you will “fix” them. Rather, they will actively collaborate with you, bringing greater results and satisfaction for you both.
Value Your Expertise
Medical insurance does interesting things to a person’s mindset. Not only does it make them feel like their medical expenses should be free, but it also makes them feel entitled to treatment. This reinforces the patient mentality: because they paid their insurance premium, they deserve to get “fixed.” It gets worse if a practitioner suggests a test, treatment, or supplement that is not covered by insurance. Then the patient feels like the practitioner is taking advantage of the doctor/patient relationship and looking for personal gain through unnecessary upselling.
Again, this isn’t a useful mindset for anyone. The patient views you in an unfair light and you are forced into the mindset that patients are unable and unwilling to pay for their treatment. This can lead to what we call the “poverty mindset” – a practitioner’s belief that their prices are a barrier to treatment, so they must provide treatment for far less than it is worth. This can cripple the profitability of a practice and send a practitioner into a downward spiral of stress, overwork, burnout, and financial failure.
Here, again, you have an opportunity to change your mindset from “patients won’t pay” to “my expertise holds value.” With that idea in mind, you can build a solid relationship with your existing clients and potential clients. By getting to know them and understanding what they really want beyond just the alleviation of their symptoms, you can show them the value in working together with you on their journey to their desired health destination.
Therein lies the secret. Working with you is a journey, not a quick fix. When patients see that putting in time with you will allow them to arrive at their desired destination, they’ll understand that working with you is an investment in themselves – both of time and money.
You’ll be surprised at the change. The people that once griped about $20 copays will be more than willing to pay cash up front once they understand that an investment in themselves will help them achieve their greatest desires. Their mindset will transform from “insurance should cover everything” to “I am happy to invest in myself.” This new mindset will then allow everyone to get what they want and deserve. Your clients will be healthier and happier, and you will get the compensation for your time and expertise that you deserve.
A Final Thought
No matter where you and your clients’ mindsets are right now, it’s important to remember this: these mindsets are not your fault. Instead of feeling stuck inside these limiting belief systems, you can act. By fostering real, compassionate relationships with your current and prospective clients, you can address both the mindsets that you and your clients hold, and work together to create growth mindsets that will allow you to work in sync with greater results than ever before.
- Yasgur BS. Why are men less likely to see a doctor? WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/men/news/20210706/men-less-likely-to-see-doctor-study. Published July 6, 2021. Accessed June 13, 2022.
- Health and economic costs of chronic diseases. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/about/costs/index.htm. Published June 6, 2022. Accessed June 13, 2022.
- Patient definition & meaning. Merriam-Webster. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/patient. Accessed June 13, 2022.
- Client definition & meaning. Merriam-Webster. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/client. Accessed June 13, 2022.
Danielle Chandler is the vice president of business development at FPC. She is honored to be able to help change lives and families by showing them a solution to their challenges. With experience in programs for antiaging and optimizing brain health, Danielle finds purpose in giving patients incredible experiences and results while also creating highly successful business models. As a mother of 4, Danielle understands that creating a life with balance is essential to the health of your family.