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Consider Asking “What Matters to You?” Instead of “What’s the Matter?”

by Dr. Becky Jaffe

Approximately 2,400 years ago, Hippocrates stated, “It is more important to know what sort of person has a disease than to know what sort of disease a person has.” As biomedical science and technological innovation advance the discipline of medicine, we must not forget the importance of knowing our patients and building relationships.

To emphasize the importance of patient-centered care, the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) started a “What Matters to You?” campaign. “What Matters to You?”  is an initiative to encourage and support more meaningful conversations between those who provide health and social care and those who receive health and social care. The IHI has created a toolkit entitled What Matters” to Older Adults?  

The toolkit presents a 4-part framework that focuses on what Matters, Medications, Mentation and Mobility. It also contains a 2-page multicultural tool to help the clinician better understand the person in front of them, as well as other useful resources.

The Ottawa Personal Decision Guide, a shared decision-making tool, is another resource that assists with patient-physician collaboration in the care of the patient. 

Additional readings include an AMA blog post on how a health system is identifying and prioritizing patient’s concerns and a 2017 article written by Dan and Chip Heath in Behavioral Scientist recounting personal stories that emphasize why the work we do day-to-day is important.

Despite the 2,400 year difference, Hippocrates’ words are more valid than ever before. Providing value-based and innovative care begins when we look up from our charts/computer screens and really work to understand the person sitting in front of us.

The evidence is slow in its production, but the rewards of the caring collaboration are priceless. 

Additional readings: 

Seidman J, Anderson M, Masi D et al. Measuring Value Based On What Matters to Patients: A New Value Assessment Framework. Health Affairs. May 23, 2017 Health Affairs

DiGloia A, Clayton S, Giarrusso M. “What Matters to You?”: A pilot project for implementing patient-centered care. Patient Experience Journal. Vol3 (2), 2016 PXJ