Do You Know What Patients Really Want?

Developing A More Caring Culture

This week I’m going to follow up last week’s letter with some thoughts about culture.

Culture is formed through the behaviour of people within an organisation. 

People talk about healthy and unhealthy cultures in much the same way that a doctor might talk about a healthy or unhealthy patient.

During the timeout we had earlier this year, senior leadership in the hospital talked about the things that we think are important. These included:

  • Being focused what the patient needs – (delivering value for the patient).
  • Being responsible for what we do or don’t do – (responsible governance).
  • Building cooperation between teams and individuals – (joined-up thinking).
  • Creating strong teamwork – (teamwork).
  • Always believing we can make improvements – (continuous improvement).

We agreed that we wanted Al Wakra Hospital to be a place which was built on these values.

When you focus on what the patient needs – your behaviours demonstrate kindness, compassion, and a concern to make things as safe as possible. It’s not enough to think about being kind for example – you have to do something to show we are being kind. 

The same is true for all of the values we have said are important. It’s doing things that will show that you mean what you say.

When I worked in Cardiff, undergraduate medical students who were visiting wards for the first time wanted to be able to do something – rather than just observe. They argued together about whether it was possible for them to do anything – after all they weren’t qualified doctors. 

So they agreed to just ask one question when they met any patient at the end of their conversation. They agreed they would record what patient’s responses were so they would have some data to base their actions on.

What they found surprised them. Before they started, many were worried that patients would ask them difficult questions they wouldn’t be able to answer like these:

Am I dying? Do I have cancer?

What more than 90% of patients actually asked were questions like these:

Could you help me to the toilet? Could you pass me my drink? Could you adjust my pillow?

The next time you’re with a patient, why not end your conversation – like the trainee doctors did – by asking this simple question?

Is there anything else I can do for you now?.

That’s one way we could build an even more caring culture at Al Wakra Hospital.

I wish you good health and happiness for you and your family for the week ahead.


What will you do to show that you are a kind person?