Using Patients as Motivators

We are constantly hearing stories of how people use others to achieve what they aspire for. This is not new and has been going on from time immemorial resulting in specific outcomes. If we look at Indian history, e.g. The Freedom Struggle in India, we see how Mahatma Gandhi brought the Indian people together to fight for freedom of the nation through non-violence. His greatest asset was the power to motivate them to think alike. The result being that every Indian thought of only one movement The Freedom Struggle and hence he was able to utilise the most effective resource, namely people.

India is a large country with a population of over 95 million. What better motivating source can we have? Most industries today are trying to understand this concept and have turned to utilising their own work force for various activities such as social service, thus giving them a better understanding of human sufferings and feelings which motivates to better performance and higher achievements.

Most patients usually have someone accompany them to a hsopital. I have categorised the attenders of patients as motivators. Before we go any further, we need to understand the barriers and constraints that people have to get a better understanding of why motivation is so important. In an Operation s Research Study conducted a few years back by Aravind Eye Hospital, Madurai, we identified the following reasons for people not coming to the hospital.

Fear of surgery
No one to accompany
Family opposition

Waiting for the lens to mature
Lack of proper information or communication

Sole support of family
Financial Costs

The results of the survey clearly indicated a relatively low uptake of cataract surgery among the target population. Despite the fact most people wanted to have surgery, a variety of barriers kept them from having surgery. It is obvious that health education and motivation play a major role in this. Many human factors including illiteracy, basic knowledge about eye diseases and fear need to be overcome.

Similarly in another study (MIOLs study ) at the hospital where visual outcome and quality of life was measured, 95% of the patients who underwent surgery were satisfied with the surgical outcome and 98.9% of them stated that they would recommend their relatives to undergo surgery if required.

In developing countries where blindness is a major problem an enormous amount work still needs to be done to reduce needless blindness, it is necessary that people needing treatment are advised and motivated for early treatment and rehabilitation. In a country like ours, where people speak many different languages and have different levels of comprehension and understanding, there is also a possibility that we may not be communicating to the patients at their level of understanding. These are barriers and cause confusion.
In a hospital setting where we are dealing with patients year in and year out, we have a very powerful resource as a motivating tool in our hands. They are:
  • Patients who are admitted and undergone surgery
  • Attenders or Relatives accompanying the patients to the hospital
  • Doctors and staff who take care of Patients who come to the Out Patient Department (OPD)
  • Visitors who come to see their friends or relatives
Who make good motivators and why are they necessary? If we go back to the barriers that we had identified earlier, we find that most of the barriers can be addressed. Hence who could be better motivators other than the above mentioned. We shall discuss in more detail with regards to this.

Patients who have already undergone surgery:
They could be rated as strong motivators. Who can give a better and vivid description of the experience than the patient themselves? This group will be listened to very attentively by people and helps the patient mentally prepare themselves. Remember that the patient goes through tremendous mental turmoil before making the ultimate decision. The barrier of fear gets addressed here, and the patient develops a lot of mental courage from seeing and speaking to a patient who has had sight restoration surgery and is rehabilitated to their normal life.

Doctors and Staff who take care of Patients who come to the Out Patient Department (OPD): When a patient comes to OPD, they most often are not sure of what is going to happen. They are apprehensive, afraid and worried about the outcome of the examination. At this stage it is important that the doctors, paramedics and all other staff involved in this process ensure that the patient, and attender who accompanies the patient are taken care of and their apprehensions addressed. This has a tremendous impact on the patient and attender, and helps them in the decision making process of whether they want to undergo treatment in this facility. Every person who visits a hospital likes to feel that they are in safe hands, and will be well taken care of. They would like all their fears and doubts addressed and feel that the services being provided are of value. The impact at this stage is very important from the patients point of view.

Visitors who come to see their friends or relatives: This group is the target group that will spread the reputation of the hospital far and wide. Since they come as visitors they are keen to enquire about the services, and on return talk about their visit to the hospital to their friends. This group is a very powerful marketing group and you can be sure that they will weigh the pros and cons before speaking. If they are satisfied with what they have seen they will be sure to promote the hospital among their friends and relatives. However if they have one bad experience they will highlight that to do maximum damage.

So we see that all the above mentioned categories can be classified as patients or potential patients or patient promoters in the near future. However we must not forget that to use this powerful tool to support our endeavors, we should ensure that we are able to provide services and quality and address the expectations of the persons who visit the hospital be it a patient or any one else. The power to use this resource is in our hands and the end result will depend on how we can utilize this resource to our advantage. Quality and efficient service, good information systems, communication and a caring attitude with a human touch is all the price to be paid for this huge resource.