Frequently Asked Questions
What is The Patient Promise?
The Patient Promise is a unique commitment between healthcare professionals and patients that aims to instill a deep sense of partnership into their relationship and motivate both to adopt healthy lifestyle behaviors. In the process The Patient Promise also hopes to reduce weight discrimination and change the culture of healthcare for the better.
Why is this important?
There are endless statistics about the tremendous rise in obesity and other lifestyle-associated chronic diseases and how these increase costs while diminishing quality of life. As an example, in the US one in three adults and one in six children are obese. This costs over $150 billion to the healthcare system and, more importantly, people who are obese may lose around five years on their life expectancy. There are many other lifestyle associated conditions, such as diabetes & cardiovascular disease, and behaviors, such as drinking and smoking, that negatively impact individual and societal health.
The Patient Promise is important because it acknowledges the role that clinicians’ personal health behaviors play in their patients’ health, both in terms of the relationship between well-being and performance (e.g. a less sleep-deprived physician makes less mistakes) and in terms of setting a good example for patients.
Who signs the promise?
Signatures generally come from current and future (student) healthcare professionals who are committed to personal well-being and the health of their patients. This includes physicians, nurses, physical therapists, psychologists, and many other clinicians who work directly with patients.
What is the vision of The Patient Promise?
We believe that with enough awareness and commitment on the part of healthcare professionals, we can help both clinicians and patients become healthier. It is our goal that each person who signs The Patient Promise receives a lapel pin and potentially wall certificate to symbolize their commitment to living healthier and reducing weight bias. A side benefit of this symbolism is that it will hopefully spark the curiosity of some patients and in the process open up conversations about healthy lifestyle behaviors that otherwise would not happen. Starting with medical and nursing students, we hope The Patient Promise can spread to a significant fraction of healthcare professionals and in the process change the culture of healthcare for the better.
A promise...sounds serious. Does this mean I have to sign up for a triathlon and say goodbye to twinkies forever?
In light of how critical the issue of lifestyle-related chronic disease is to society, it is important that The Patient Promise be more than empty words - hence the word “promise.” At the same time it takes into account the realities of being a practitioner or student in a healthcare profession. The promise is actually a commitment to work towards the ideal behaviors listed in the document, which provides for some flexibility.
For example, “regular physical activity” can range from an extreme of training for a marathon to simply walking for 30 minutes routinely; “balanced and nutritious diet” refers to overall intake and allows for food splurges once-in-a-while; “refrain from the use of harmful substances” is meant to decrease the use of cigarettes, tobacco, and drugs that may cause immediate and permanent damage and allows for use of other substances such as caffeine and alcohol in moderation; and “diminish personal stressors and look after my mental well-being” broadly encourages clinicians to make time to enjoy personal activities and avoid burnout.
These are behaviors that most healthcare professionals already understand to be vitally important to health; The Patient Promise simply provides impetus to begin or continue practicing them.
As a busy healthcare professional or student, how will I stay on track?
Accountability! The Patient Promise helps you become accountable to yourself, to your patients, and to your colleagues. When signing The Patient Promise you also have the option to describe a tangible goal that you hope to accomplish and that you may be reminded of periodically. In addition, we will be providing specific recommendations for healthcare professionals on the website that will hopefully help you work towards the tenets of the promise.
What happens if I stumble and break my promise?
The only way to break the promise is to stop working towards incorporating healthy lifestyle behaviors in your life and your patients’ lives. We sincerely hope this does not happen, though as the promise states we “recognize that enduring change of this nature requires time and continual reinforcement” so we hope that you are able to recommit.
How can I help promote The Patient Promise?
First of all, thank you for your interest! Secondly, the best way to promote The Patient Promise is to directly reach out to friends and colleagues to let them know about this movement. We can provide material for distribution (e.g. flyers, e-mail templates, etc) so that current or future healthcare professionals at multiple institutions become aware of The Patient Promise. You can also like us on Facebook and contact us for more information!