Healthcare needs to trust patients to make decisions about their care, says Mayo Clinic's Dr. Thomas Howell

In this special Speaker Series, Becker's Healthcare caught up with Thomas Howell, MD, medical director for patient experience at Rochester, Minn.-based Mayo Clinic.

Dr. Howell will speak during the Becker's Hospital Review 4th Annual Health IT + Revenue Cycle Conference on "Strategies for Payer and Provider Partnerships and Quality Business Decisions," at 2:00 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 20. Learn more about the event and register to attend in Chicago.

Question: What's one conviction in healthcare that needs to be challenged? 

Dr. Thomas Howell: I think it's the belief that patients and consumers are not able to be responsible in their choices. The belief that they do not have the ability to discern what is high-quality and what is not. I know much less about auto mechanics than most people do about their own health, yet nobody is concerned that I might make bad choices in a mechanic for my car. The immediate risk to myself, my family and the public is probably higher if my chosen mechanic botches my brake job than if I get bad medical advice or care. The more transparent and simplified we can make the system, the better patients will be able to make wise choices with their resources.

Q: Can you share your best advice for motivating your teams?

TH: I think it's making the connection between an individual's priorities and the organization's values — finding the place where these intersect and support each other. We have a very values-driven culture at Mayo and leveraging those values as the "why," then finding ways to connect these with individuals' priorities is a key.

Q: What's the best thing you've read lately? 

TH: The book Love That Boy: What Two Presidents, Eight Road Trips, and My Son taught Me About a Parent's Expectations by Ron Fournier. My wife told me about it, and I started reading a couple of chapters on a long plane trip just to placate her. I ended up reading the whole thing in one sitting.

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