Interacting with healthcare providers

Effective communication between a patient and a healthcare provider is an essential part of good healthcare. People in this study told us about what happened in practice, how they liked to be treated, and the characteristics that they liked and disliked in their healthcare provider’s manner.

Participants wanted the healthcare provider to listen to what the person is actually saying, not what they expect to hear, and show empathy. They wanted to feel supported in their efforts to manage their asthma; to be provided with explanations as to what to do and what needs to change. Some people were happy with their relationship with their doctor, but others said that they were made to feel to blame for their illness, or simply not believed. Marion wants doctors to acknowledge that people may need time to adjust to the severe asthma diagnosis; it may take time before people become confident about getting on top of acute episodes.

Gaye didn’t feel she was being listened to.

Mick wants support not criticism.

Leanne felt like she was an inconvenience.

Participants spoke about the kind of language that they preferred from healthcare providers during consultations. They wanted healthcare providers to use language that is positive and understandable, not technical. Feedback is important- not just head nodding.

Michael feels patients should seek explanations from health providers if they use jargon.

Lauren was frustrated that she just got head nodding and no feedback.

Participants in our study revealed that they don’t always tell healthcare providers everything, and that they tell different things to different healthcare providers. Some found it easier to talk with their GP rather than a specialist as the GP knows them better. Some participants expressed that patients need to be open and not afraid to ask questions; not all participants felt comfortable to do this.

Marg has felt intimidated with some healthcare providers.

Marion is happy to share most information but there’s not always time.

Mick feels the person with severe asthma needs to be truthful and not hide anything.

The dynamics of the relationship between healthcare provider and the person with severe asthma was important to some people in this study. They wanted to be seen as equal, at least in what they bring to the table.

Jemma wants healthcare providers to see people with asthma as clients rather than patients.

Justin believes people with asthma need to be held accountable.

In terms of the actual information to be provided, participants appreciated the doctor being up front with their condition, that is explaining exactly what is going on and what to do. When the situation was explained clearly, some people with severe asthma said they are more likely to accept things and take their medication. However, some healthcare providers do not provide explanations, which participants found frustrating. Several participants spoke positively about their healthcare provider’s knowledge noting that they know their stuff, are proactive, and think outside the box.

Marea likes that her GP tells her exactly how things stand.

Marion believes healthcare providers do need to educate patients.

Asthma treatment adherence and outcomes are known to be improved when the healthcare provider and patient share information, discuss preferences for asthma treatment, consider the options, and both agree on the treatment to use. Participants in our study had different takes on this. Some found it empowering, others preferred to leave the decision to the healthcare provider.  A common theme was that the healthcare provider is the expert on the condition of severe asthma, but the patient is the expert on living with the condition, and the healthcare providers need to put themselves in the patient’s shoes. It was important to participants that healthcare providers put individuals’ situation and needs first.  Sometimes they feel they are viewed as a case from a medical text , which is not helpful to a good relationship with healthcare providers.

Jemma feels empowered to be given a choice regarding treatment.

Marion feels it’s hard for patients to process information when sick.

Leanne sees a difference between textbooks and real life which needs to be acknowledged by healthcare providers.

People with severe asthma are likely to be managed by both primary care providers [such as GPs and pharmacists], as well as specialised severe asthma services where there may be a team of different healthcare providers. So it is important that the healthcare providers communicate and work with each other to best deliver care to severe asthma patients. [Reference: Severe asthma toolkit].

Participants in the study reported examples of successful communication, as well as lack of communication, between healthcare providers. Some talked about healthcare providers receiving reports but not actually talking to each other about the patient’s needs, others appreciated arrangements being made in the background. Some people we talked to suggested that different types of health providers should be on the same page with regard to information known about the patient, but input to the patient’s care with their own specific expertise.

Frank was pleased that the GP was already updated by the specialist.

Joel saw no handover between specialist and GP.

Although people with severe asthma generally found pharmacists helpful, some participants had issues with pharmacists’ handling of conversations around supply of medications. Sometimes this was due to the person with asthma presenting at a pharmacy other than the usual one where they are known to the pharmacist.

Ian found questions asked by the pharmacist annoying.

Joel would like pharmacists to be more empathetic.