How to Induce Self-Reflection using Personal Fears, instead of facts. Why healthcare consumers still blunder? (Part II)

Blog post about using Personal Fears to induce self-reflection



2021-01-04 4 min read

Disclaimer: I am talking about prevention only, this does not apply to critically ill patients.


I believe it is a healthcare providers' task firstly to understand that providing facts is not enough because they are not understood and processed in the same manner. Secondly to invest more time into personal communication. And thirdly to shift gathered personal information and turn it into personal fears, inducing self-reflection.

Many tend to take the burden off patient's shoulders when communicating, to ease up the situation. But keep in mind that coming to a healthcare provider is not a good thing. After all, when person is sitting in a doctor's office - it's a awful thing and we shouldn't cover that up.

“While the vast majority of patients have been asked if they smoke, drink, and are physically active, very few report being asked about their future health or related worries (Figure 5). Indeed, more people have been asked (by a provider) about their favorite TV show or movie (22%) than about how healthy they think they will be at age 50 (15%).”

I support this text with Deloitte’s article about the future of healthcare. They are talking about the critical thinking of healthcare consumer and perception of health related decisions. Apparently consumers are in fact worried about their future lifestyle limitations:

 “When asked about worries related to future health problems, survey participants were more frequently concerned about outcomes of disease—such as health expenses and lifestyle limitations—rather than the future risk of having the disease itself.”

But it seems that they are rarely asked the questions regarding their true worries:

In part one I was raising one simple question – why healthcare consumers still don’t behave themselves? In spite of knowing a lot of valuable information about their bodies – most of us are still doing too little good deeds for our bodies.

In part one I am elaborating about everything that digital solutions bring as addition to just being well-read: constant reminders, on the spot metrics, personal data, inclusion into groups and so on. In this part I will talk about the different meanings of the same health-related information – one sense for the doctor and other for the patient.

So forget “cancer” and “death” and other buzzwords. Start mentioning sorrowful life behind the diagnosis. Stress the personal misery coming either from physical or from psychological perspective. It could be the fear of losing the ability to talk, or inability to visit your daughter on her birthday. Just please always add this part to the diagnosis - it means a lot when talking about prevention. Start using Personalized Fear and you will see patients self-reflecting and changing.

Above text seems quite aggressive. I also have gentle example from my former workplace. We did this in European “Physical activity on prescription” project. Even though we were prescribing physical activity for the patients, the patient questionnaire wasn’t about smoking or healthy diet. It was about having kids, having grandchildren, hobbies, leisure time – putting stress on most important things for particular person which he/she may lose because of his unhealthy habits. And after that comes interview with the psychologist.

Today big part of our public healthcare and prevention tactics is about teaching the society and providing information. Which is a really wonderful plan - we are trying to fill in that huge knowledge and information gap between doctor and the patient. So that everyone is well informed. Even this pandemic situation worked out - it filled some of that knowledge-less pit with people realising what they have been breathing in and out their whole lives! Finally!

So we thought that providing facts will work. But it seems that it’s clearly not enough for patients to just know the information, it is not enough to raise awareness, inform, to teach or enlighten the public.

Healthcare providers understand and perceive the same information unlike the general audience. For healthcare providers that same facts about having a high risk of heart attack means so much more than for the general audience. That’s because healthcare providers often have already seen the painful consequences of the particular diagnosis and they think that providing facts is enough.

General public isn’t really aware of the life changing consequences most of the time. Patients are generally aware of the possible diagnosis, various outcomes, numbers, probabilities, future possibilities, physiological mechanisms, prevention plans and medications and so on and so forth.

Part of it is legal stuff, that’s ok, tell them. But why it seems that everyone forgets to mention the real consequences? The miserable life behind the diagnosis and Invaluable moments one may lose because of unhealthy habits.

We won’t reach full potential of prevention without providing Personalised Fear. Let people feel the real loss behind the diagnosis. The loss of what matters the most for them personally.

Understanding that “OMG you have 73 % risk of getting a heart attack” doesn’t mean anything to healthcare consumer is a very valuable lesson. People don’t care that smoking gives them cancer or death. People start self-reflecting when something truly valuable for them is in danger. In some cases being healthy and alive is not the most important thing. For example I quit smoking when I imagined myself losing my ability to talk because of throat cancer. Because being able to talk is more valuable for me than simply being healthy.

Providing facts

Same info - Two perspectives

Personalized Fears

Missing Link in communication

Actions to take | 2020

Kasparas Aleknavicius