In our industry, the relationship between providers and patients is foundational to high quality care. With rapidly shifting expectations from consumers and the deluge of messages around each and every corner, every healthcare executive, every marketer and every clinician must be thoughtful about the words they are using.
Take “discharge” for example. It is a word used when a patient leaves a hospital. That word, in my opinion, conveys the wrong message to patients. Using a word like “discharge” undermines the important connection hospitals are trying to make with patients. It’s a word that sounds more like a release of a bodily fluid. If we want to create more meaningful and lasting relationships between providers, hospitals and their patients, we must rethink everything, including the language we use. Providers and hospitals don’t want to “discharge” a patient. They want to complete that one episode of care and be there when another care event occurs. It should be an ongoing relationship.
People are acutely aware of the words we use and the messages they see, and they take them into account when making healthcare decisions. In fact, according to a recent Healthgrades analysis on the patient experience during a hospital stay, communication with clinicians and nurses ranks as an important factor.
This lesson is also important beyond a patient’s clinical interaction. The care journey begins much earlier and extends far beyond one office visit or hospital stay. The words we use along the healthcare journey can be transformative for patients; and for hospitals, they can mean the difference between a loyal and engaged patient, or a one-hit wonder.
The way we communicate with consumers can have a profound effect on where they choose to receive care, how satisfied they are with their experience, and how likely they are to remain loyal to their current provider or hospital.
In my opinion, if a hospital’s ultimate goal is to engage and build loyalty with each of their patients, then banning words like “discharge” that erode the patient-provider relationship should be a top priority.
Because the words that we use matter.