How to Inspire Hope in Patients with Chronic Disease

March 12, 2020

More and more evidence suggests that people who are able to manage their own chronic disease improve their health and reduce the chance of hospitalization.

And yet, many health organizations are not providing the hope that patients need to be inspired to do so.

Why? Because many are skipping on patient engagement programs altogether or they’re leaning on traditional customer call center training, which is just not good enough.

How Does Hope Engage Patients?

When it comes to medical terms, “hope” is somewhat dismissed in the medical community as marketing terminology. But when you consider that the opposite of hope is despair, then the potential consequences of the lack of hope become obvious.

When you have despair, you have no proactive self-management.

Training Can Help Care Managers Inspire Hope in Patients with Chronic Disease

Oftentimes, care managers are very well trained in transactional workflows, but lack much, if any, training in empathy, hope, or trust.

An effective content patient engagement program includes care manager training that includes how to:

  • Proactively reach out to check on patients
  • Connect with patients and help them feel comfortable enough to express themselves
  • Ask open-ended questions and listen attentively
  • Provide resources, such as stories, treatment guidance brochures, and videos to help educate
  • Set small achievable goals that are driven by the patient
  • Help patients recognize and celebrate achievements

Need proof? Take a look at Stanford University’s Chronic Disease Self-Management1 program to start. In a two year study of more than 800 people with chronic conditions, they found that self-efficacy improved, health distress decreased, and ER and outpatient visits decreased with the appropriate self management program.

A patient engagement program that encourages self management can not only can improve patient satisfaction, but also decrease health care costs.

How Goal Setting Inspires Hope

One of the key tactics that the Stanford study outlines is the importance of goal setting. Helping patients set small, achievable short-term goals and celebrate and endorse the patients as they achieve goals helps patients feel accomplished, proud, and focused on treatment maintenance. They’re more likely to take the appropriate next steps, wherever they are in their journey. These feelings all contribute to a sense of hope and optimism.

The Right Care Manager Training Curriculum Is Key

Many care managers are trained in transactional workflows, and are measured on volume of calls, compliance, adherence to business rules, and other transactional metrics. They may have some basic customer service training, but they need more guidance to encourage hope.

Not convinced? Listen to your care managers recorded calls. Here’s what you might hear:

  • Only yes or no questions; no open-ended conversation starters
  • No follow-up questions
  • No response from patients to volunteer information
  • Flat or disinterested tone of voice
  • The care manager doing all the talking
  • No proactive suggestion to send additional resources or help

Infusing more empathetic responses and open-ended conversational questions will help show the care managers are listening and get patients talking. It’s a completely different mindset to traditional call center training. Yes, business rules and compliance are important, but we need to remember the end goal here. We’re not simply gathering information. We’re changing lives for the better.

Measuring the Effectiveness of Care Management Training

Is it impossible to measure a thing like hope? Not at all.

In reviewing care manager conversations, at Legacy Health Strategies, we listen for the patient’s tone of voice; are they excited, motivated, and volunteering stories and information?

Is the care manager asking questions and providing empathetic responses?

Is the care manager listening and not interrupting the patient?

How receptive are patients to setting goals? How receptive are they to receiving resources, talking to a peer, or becoming a peer-to-peer advocate themselves?

All of these are indicators of whether a patient is hopeful and engaged in self-management.

We also send patient satisfaction surveys so patients can confidentially rate their care manager and provide direct feedback.

Care manager calls and scripts can be improved, even in the middle of a patient engagement program. In fact, as soon as we know something is not quite right, we should address issues IMMEDIATELY. If the care managers doesn’t get 90% or above on patient satisfaction, that’s an issue.