Feedback: Why Patients Need It, When to Use It and How to Give It
By Steven Imgrund, MS, CNS
If someone asked one of your new patients (between three to six months of care) how their care has been progressing, what would they say?
Would they be able to talk about their subjective improvements, like energy levels, and how those relate to improvements in other categories, such as body composition goals, inflammatory markers, lipid levels and common diabetic parameters?
Or would they give a vague answer along the lines of: "I'm feeling better, and I think my labs are better, too! Although my doc did mention that one thing we need to work on…what was that again?"
If the first scenario resonated with you, I would bet you are familiar with Pearson's Law, which was first used as an analogy for business growth, but is a principle that applies to all areas of life.
Pearson's Law states, "When performance is measured, performance improves. When performance is measured and reported back, the rate of improvement accelerates."
Said another way, giving patients feedback on how they are progressing through care, or better yet, giving them tangible proof of that progress, accelerates their improvement.
Why Feedback is Important
Have you ever used a pedometer as motivation to be more active during the day?
How about a sleep tracker to see how well-rested you are?
The same principle applies: Most people see improvement when success is measured and feedback (in some form) is given. This is good to know for those of us in lifestyle medicine, where we regularly request our patients make lifestyle and dietary changes and closely monitor health outcomes.
If patients make these changes, but their only metric of progress is how they feel symptomatically, then once they feel better, a lot of those critical lifestyle habits might go out the window. This is especially true for common cardiovascular and metabolic comorbidities, whose symptoms are typically not as apparent as GI sensitivities or intolerances, for example.
What if the Feedback is Confusing?
Let's face it, walking a patient through their CBC results and lipid levels can be less than engaging, and even confusing.
This is why many practitioners find creative ways to spruce up those boring black and white test results. Some even go to the lengths of drawing smiley faces next to parameters that have improved, using stickers, and writing little notes in the margins. Good enough for elementary school teachers, good enough for practitioners discussing heart disease risk with adults...right?
As many functional lab companies have begun to understand, incorporating color-coded reference ranges, scales and brief descriptions of the measurements make it easier for practitioners to communicate what the labs mean.
Even then, if the patient has records from multiple lab companies, or the practitioner cannot order lab testing and must piece together multiple records or printouts, the process of synthesizing the information becomes complicated. The feedback gets lost in translation.
Clearly communicating patient feedback, especially in the critical early stages of care, is essential to build patient retention and grow your practice. One of the resources that can be helpful for you is the Wellness Score.
The Wellness Score utilizes an algorithm applying lab reference ranges to accurately interpret and score each parameter in addition to overall health.
The Wellness Score gives you and your patients information about anthropometrics, inflammation, lipids, blood sugar and insulin, as well as cardiometabolic-specific nutrient markers such as vitamin D and magnesium. Once that information is established, it then scores the patient with a simple grade to provide feedback on where they can prioritize and focus over time to improve their grade.
Find out how this tool can support your patients' health journeys by downloading an example Wellness Score and scheduling a free discovery call with our team today!
Steven Imgrund, MS, CNS
Steven Imgrund is a board-certified nutritionist and the CM Vitals Brand Manager at Lifestyle Matrix Resource Center, overseeing the marketing initiatives of their cardiometabolic product line. Steven developed his passion for nutrition and health working as personal trainer and health coach, specializing in weight loss and behavior change. Through working with hundreds of clients, Steven has seen the challenges with implementing long-term lifestyle and dietary habits. This experience has fueled his passion for functional medicine, and his desire to help health care practitioners use proven lifestyle and supplement strategies to safely address the root causes of their patients cardiometabolic issues. Steven received his Masters in Human Nutrition through Bridgeport University in 2018, and Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS) certification in 2020.