The Problem with Assumptions/Never Assume

Cuttsy+Cuttsy | 9 May 2018

Patient assumptions and HCP assumptions individually or combined can lead to an inaccurate picture of a patient’s health. Unfortunately, assumptions are easy to make – all you need is some incomplete information. Then your brain works to fill in the blanks with your interpretations or past experiences and make the situation meaningful in your own mind. We jump to conclusions and our assumption is made.

Being on the receiving end of an assumption can be frustrating, disengaging or in some situations can make you feel powerless. People are making assumptions all the time and now it is increasingly common for technology to too. Let’s take an everyday example - writing a text when the software predicts your next word or thought. Almost everyone has a story of where this has caused great hilarity or confusion to the receiver and likely embarrassment to the sender.

Similarly, the predictive search algorithm behind search engines can throw up highly irrelevant suggestions as it jumps to auto-complete our searches for us:

The fact that every situation is different is clearly illustrated by the assumed answers of this search term being so diverse. Not everyone is feeling the same and to assume is plainly inaccurate. Recognition that everyone is unique is always important but even more so in healthcare.

When it comes to health, we know that many people first turn to ‘Dr Google’ to try and make sense of their symptoms. They may even arrive with a predicted diagnosis at their GP surgery having made some assumptions based on online research. This information has the potential to be an obstacle that makes it more difficult for their HCP to get to the root of the issue. Of course, the internet is a hugely valuable resource but until technology improves and information is more personalized, search results can potentially cause anxiety, worry and even fear to make the role of the HCP even more challenging.

HCP’s also make assumptions based on their knowledge, experience and limited patient information they have available. This can sometimes contribute to patients feeling like they are not being treated individually and that all aspects of their problems are not being responded to accurately or timely enough.

To reduce assumptions on both sides, building a trusted two-way HCP-patient partnership is the first step. With the relationship in place, collaborative solutions can be created as patients are empowered, with both patient and doctor taking responsibility for the patient’s health and treatment. The partnership requires openness, a willingness to listen and a commitment to finding solutions from both sides. By doing this, there is an opportunity to learn and, importantly, make progress.

At Cuttsy+Cuttsy we recognise the problems of making assumptions and recognise the value of what can be learnt by asking the right questions. The insights we uncover help us to develop emotionally intelligent communications that are relevant and resonate with audiences. While reasons lead to logical conclusions it is the trigger of emotion that leads to positive action.

To find out more about how we use emotional intelligence in our work to please get in touch