News & Views

How walking in a patient’s shoes can unlock patient-centred care

“After quarter of a century of treating patients, this is the first time in my whole career I have been through a programme that helps me to truly understand the burden of the disease.”

Dr Thomas Barber, Associate Professor and Honorary Consultant Endocrinologist, University of Warwick and University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire (UHCW)

Dr Thomas Barber has been treating people with diabetes for much of his medical career, but even with more than 20 years’ experience he was surprised to learn something new from our latest A Life in a Day experience for type 2 diabetes.

“As a healthcare professional you can know everything there is in the world about diabetes,” said Dr Barber. “But that doesn’t tell you what it’s like to be a patient and experience it, and that was quite an enlightening experience.”

This unique insight into the world of a patient is crucial to enabling a ‘patient obsessed’ mindset within both healthcare and the pharma industry. Only by becoming obsessed with how a patient thinks, feels and acts can we ultimately improve care through greater patient-centric practice.

To mark the official launch of our new type 2 diabetes experience, Dr Barber – an Associate Professor and Honorary Consultant Endocrinologist at University of Warwick and University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire (UHCW) – spoke to Mark Doyle, A Life in a Day creator, about how he believes experiences like ours can unlock patient-centred care and even have the potential to break down wider cultural barriers and stigma.

They were also joined by Mark Duman who has lived with type 2 diabetes for more than 10 years.

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The challenge of providing patient-centred care

Like all of us working within healthcare and pharma, Dr Barber believes good care is difficult to achieve without having a focus on the patient. But ha also spoke candidly about how this can be challenging to achieve.

Limited time with patients during consultations combined with the need to perform all NICE-recommended checks can, he said, get in the way. For GPs, there are also QOF targets to consider.

“…there is definitely a disconnect, certainly in my experience, between what the healthcare professional needs to achieve in a consultation and what often the patient would prefer,” said Dr Barber.

Mark Duman emphatically agrees. As someone with personal experience of type 2 diabetes, he said healthcare professionals often see his condition first rather than him as a person,

“I’m often treated as a disease. If I’m lucky, then as a patient, and if I’m even luckier, we begin to touch around ‘What’s important to you Mark? What’s your illness perception? What’s your medication perception?’”

For Mark, he passionately believes that everyone involved in diabetes should ‘speak the language of patients, not the language of medicine’ and consider what’s most important to people living with chronic conditions rather than focusing on medical checks and tests.

Dr Barber agreed: “As healthcare professionals, we have to listen to patients… [we should be] treating the patient as a person with a life and a background and a social set-up and everything else, and how the diabetes fits into that person’s life…That’s really key, which I admit is challenging to achieve in the time that you have [with patients], but I think that’s what we should all be striving for.”

Using A Life in a Day experiences to unlock patient centricity

Having gone through our new type 2 diabetes experience, both Dr Barber and Mark Duman talked to Mark Doyle about what they had learned.

“That collective insight that [the A Life in a Day team] had pulled together, expanded my knowledge of type 2 beyond my individual stuff,” Mark remarked. “I thought ‘wow, that’s important’.”

“It was a fantastic immersive experience,” said Dr Barber. “You’re not going to teach me about diabeic retinopathy or the knowledge of it and the understanding of the pathogenesis and so on, but there’s a big difference between knowing all that and actually experiencing it as a patient.

“It made me realise that, as healthcare professionals, we’re in a really powerful position. You’ve got the power to either really enable that patient and enthuse them to adopt healthy behaviours, but you’ve also got the power for it to go the other way and for them to become demotivated and upset and so on. We should never underestimate that.

“As healthcare professionals, we’re in a very, very responsible position and we should always take care and consider what we’re saying to patients, how we’re saying it and the effect that’s going to have on that individual person…”

Dr Barber even went so far as to suggest A Life in a Day experiences should be made mandatory for medical students to learn about what it is like to be a patient with a chronic illness alongside their medical training.

But both parties argued that it shouldn’t end there.

“I’m a card carrying member of Diabetes UK and I think all the staff that work for Diabetes UK should be going through this as people that work with diabetes patients,” said Mark Duman. “I think patients [and] policymakers as well…”

Dr Barber added that experiences like ours should be embraced by other sectors to ensure wider groups understand the challenges associated with living with a chronic condition.

“There needs to be cultural change…not just for diabetes but for many other chronic conditions,” he said. “Maybe having the experience of a patient [through A Life in a Day] will help to improve understanding, empathy and reduce stigma.”

Our new A Life in a Day type 2 diabetes experience

Our ‘A Life in a Day of a patient with type 2 diabetes’ experience has been developed in response to patients telling us how many healthcare professionals don’t understand how difficult it can be to change your lifestyle so dramatically in the wake of a diagnosis.

It is one of several experiences we have developed across a range of therapy areas to support the healthcare and the pharma industries to go beyond patient-centric thinking and become patient obsessed. Those who go through our experiences report measurable change and improvements in patient-centric practices.

Contact our team to find out more about our immersive simulations, including our new type 2 diabetes experience, and try one of our upcoming free taster sessions.

Get in Touch

If you are interested or have questions about A Life in A Day, please reach out and contact us.

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