By Elizabeth Morrison PhD, LCSW
CEO at Elizabeth Morrison Consulting
When I met Laguna founders Yael and Yoni last summer, I wasn’t looking for an opportunity to build a healthcare app. A mutual friend reached out and said a pair of founders were looking for an expert in behavioral health and behavior change.
I still remember that conversation clearly. We hopped on the phone, and I immediately felt at ease with the team’s energy. I was also fascinated by Laguna’s mission to create an app focused on one of healthcare’s most urgent and complex issues—hospital readmissions.
For more than a decade, I’ve led the integration of behavioral health services in medical settings. My team and I also provide research-based training in Motivational Interviewing and other empathy-based communications for healthcare professionals. Why? Because the research is unequivocal, empathy heals.
Empathy alters the alchemy of relationships and fortifies our connection to the people we’re working with. In healthcare, empathy can be expressed—or missed—in subtle and surprising ways. This includes everything from how often providers ask open-ended questions, to signage in waiting areas. There are layers of conscious and unconscious empathy indicators patients are constantly processing, and all of this impacts patient health outcomes.
Empathy becomes exponentially important in post-hospitalization recoveries. The weeks following discharge are an incredibly vulnerable time. There are risks associated with the original illness and an entirely new set of considerations about the patient’s physical and mental health. Family dynamics, jargon-laden discharge paperwork, and relearning the small “daily stuff” can all impact a person’s recovery. This time is also fertile ground for people to reflect on their health, identity, work, family relationships, and more. For many patients, post-hospitalization offers the rare chance to recalibrate and make significant health behavior changes, if they have the right support.
Up until now, traditional means of post-hospitalization care have been limited at best. Most patients leave the hospital and rarely receive support outside of routine follow-up appointments. But more and more healthcare leaders are embracing technology as a way to improve patient care and reduce costs.
As technology continues to infuse itself into our everyday interactions, I’ve also been thinking about the intersection of health, empathy, and technology. I find myself asking new questions, like, how does empathy get expressed digitally? When looking at empathy from that lens, everything from Amazon to a meditation app becomes a case study. How do we feel when we are in these digital spaces? How are these companies showing us that they care—or don’t? How can we ensure we build digital tools that allow us to connect more deeply as humans, to increase equitable access to healthcare- and to avoid increasing loneliness and alienation?
At Laguna, we choose to build technology that enhances human connections during post-hospitalization care. We’re continually looking at how we operationalize and communicate empathy, equity and cultural humility, digitally and in person-to-person services.
Our individualized technology considers the patient’s strengths, needs, goals, and challenges. Patients get direct access to a diverse team of behavioral health coaches and nurses to provide support at this critical time. As behavior change experts, we understand the research around what influences adherence to medical recommendations. We know recovery can and should go beyond handing someone discharge paperwork and a list of medications. With Laguna, people receive critical discharge information and expert post-hospitalization support in the palm of their hands. From the first point of contact, our team focuses on developing empathic relationships to get shoulder to shoulder with the patient on their road to recovery.
Working with Laguna has added a new dimension to my deep, lifelong interest in the role of empathy in patient outcomes. How this gets transmitted digitally presents an incredible opportunity for healthcare leaders. Send us a message if you’re a healthcare leader interested in using technology to enhance human connection and improve post-hospitalization outcomes. We’re always interested in partnering with forward-thinking healthcare organizations!
Elizabeth Morrison PhD, LCSW brings over two decades of experience at the intersection of medical care and behavioral health. She led the integration of these two systems in organizations nationwide. Elizabeth is an expert in empathic communication modalities and the impact on health care outcomes.