Humanizing Healthcare: A Model For Consumer-Based Care

COVID UCSF Telemedicine

Two staff members wheel Amwell telemedicine carts into the entrance of the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) Benioff Children’s Hospital in Mission Bay, San Francisco, California during an outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus, March 16,


Picture a healthcare system where the human approach takes precedence. One where physicians constantly act in the best interest of the consumer and empower their clients to take charge of their own health needs. Where merging electronic health records update coexisting providers daily and one where we combine the beauty of healthcare and social services to create an ongoing network of support. Dr. Summer Knight, paramedic-turned-physician executive and Deloitte Managing Director, explains this improved and compassionate model in her new book Humanizing Healthcare. Here, she insists there is a clear guide to how we can improve the healthcare system to positively impact all parties involved.

Over the past year and a half, the COVID-19 pandemic has diminished individuals’ ability to make in-person, human connections with their providers. For many, seeing their regular physician became difficult as the focus was projected onto hospitals and emergencies. Some were even discharged early from these hospitals due to an overflow in COVID-19 inpatients. While the pandemic has left millions distraught and our country at an all time low, there is now an opportunity to improve connections with patients and restore quality management of healthcare systems across the globe.

Dr. Summer Knight advocates for providers to use this model now more than ever and provides detailed examples of how we can achieve consumer-based care in a recent interview with my foundation, ACCESS Health International. She insists advances such as artificial intelligence and sophisticated data analytics hold the potential to create an efficient future for healthcare that can restore human connection.

Early on in the book, she draws opposition from an intelligence quotient, used by healthcare providers, to an emotional quotient. While the intelligence quotient is important in properly caring for a client, the emotional quotient is even more critical because it establishes a “therapeutic alliance” between providers and the subject being treated. Dr. Knight defines this therapeutic alliance as “a bond between the healthcare consumer, their healthcare team, and their natural support network based on a mutual sense of caring, core goal toward health optimization, and trust.” She also argues that in order for this strategy to work, these relationships must be scaled across a population which requires digital care activation platforms where humans and machines work together.

In strengthening and facilitating a therapeutic alliance between clinicians and consumers, virtual health is an important step on our journey to humanizing healthcare. Digital health is embedded in electronic devices associated with living daily life more so than just caring for sickness. The healthcare industry is continuously preparing for a spike in the virtual health market with an estimate of 3.5 billion in revenue by the end of 2022. Through telehealth, humanizing healthcare comes to life allowing information sharing between physicians, easier access to providers,  improved patient evaluation and management, and remote patient monitoring among many others. Virtual health authorizes stakeholders to continue the work they have already started and address critical consumer priorities along the way.

Notice that throughout this text, I have refrained from using the word “patient”. This is another important point Dr. Knight makes in Humanizing Healthcare. She makes clear that this term places customers in a submissive and dehumanizing position. Her proposition is that individuals being treated be called “activated consumers” or “clients” instead. This suggests clinicians move away from implying what they will do to or for them, and instead describe what they will do with them as proactive partners. Because modern day activated consumers are ready to take responsibility for their health, these terms are both more respectful and more in touch with putting the client first.

By using a therapeutic approach to virtual health, we have the ability to share data and content and create personalized interactions remotely while offering high-quality access to enhance consumer-based care. In a time filled with desperation and hardships amid the COVID-19 pandemic, her message could not be more critical. I urge you to go pick up a copy of this new book and immerse yourself in her groundbreaking work to create a more sound, client based model business to business. It starts with you, but together we can lead this healthcare revolution to begin using medicine for the better and improve, not the patient but, the consumer’s journey one client at a time.


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© William A. Haseltine, PhD. All Rights Reserved.