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Lynne Bowman: A Communication Professional’s Perspective on Healthcare

In this episode we get a communication professional’s perspective on healthcare from Lynne Bowman. She joins Rob Oliver on the Perspectives on Healthcare Podcast from California. A member of the Baby Boomer generation, Lynne is an author and a diabetes expert.

Here are 3 things that stood out from the communication professional’s perspective on healthcare with Lynne Bowman:

· One of the biggest obstacles to great health outcomes is the medical community’s inability to communicate well
· Newly diagnosed patients are more about “what” then they are about “why”
· Quality healthcare is healthcare that keeps people out of the hospital and out of the healthcare system

You can learn more about Lynne Bowman through her website and social media:


Here is the text version of Lynne Bowman giving a communication professionals perspective on healthcare:

Rob Oliver: Thank you. And I appreciate you being with me to hear another perspective on healthcare. And you guys don’t know this, but my guest today and I have had the most wonderful conversation and I will admit I forgot to hit the record button. So we are coming back to this, and I hope that she has been very kind and gracious. Her name is Lynne Bowman. She is a member of the baby Boomer generation. She is out in California. She is a communications professional and an author. Lynne, welcome to the show again.

Lynne Bowman: I’m so happy to be here. And I’m so familiar with hitting the wrong buttons. I almost specialize in hitting the wrong buttons. It’s very easy to do. So here we go. No problem.

Rob Oliver: Thank you so much. So let’s start here. Tell me a little bit about yourself and your role in healthcare, please.

Lynne Bowman: Well, my role in healthcare is that I would like a role in healthcare because as a longtime communications professional, I was creative director and art director and copywriter and all those things. My life was always about being clear and communicating to get behavior from my audience, whatever it happened to be. And so what I’ve seen over the I’m type two diabetics. So I’ve spent some time with the medical community. I’ve also had three kids. And so I’m not at all unfamiliar with medical treatment in a lot of different forms, like most of us. And what continued to smack me in the face was that the communication from the hospital, from the doctor, from the medicine, it was all crappy. It was all just really too long. Jumbled not clear, not enough of the stuff you needed. I can give you a little example. I just had surgery on my hand, and Kaiser is where I go. And I came home with reams of paper with all this stuff and instructions. And the one thing they didn’t say was, don’t put ointment of any kind on it. And I didn’t know that. And my husband thought it was a good idea. So I still have my bandages on and I haven’t healed up correctly because they didn’t communicate with me. That’s a simple example, but it’s causing me pain. It’s not healing. All they had to do was put that line in bold type where you could see it and not hide it in all this other stuff. So my interest in medicine is sort of pedestrian, you might say, because I know that the medics are doing amazing things, and I know that there’s all this medicine and technology available to keep us breathing, keep us alive. So why can’t you write a sentence that makes sense to me. Why can’t you communicate with me about where to park, even for Pete’s sake? And so I would make a case that somebody needs to be on your staff who has that ability and that sensibility. And if the doctors actually valued that, it would be important. But they don’t.

Rob Oliver: Okay. And what I’m hearing you say is this is not simply the fact that doctors speak medical ease in which they’re talking about conditions and they’re talking about things that the average person doesn’t know a whole lot about. But that’s not what you’re talking about. You’re talking about the simplest of communication.

Lynne Bowman: Everyday stuff, because there is an art and a science to communicating with people on paper, on billboards, on the radio, everywhere, but it never made it to the medical community. Kaiser tries. They have slogans and things. But that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about valuing the communication personally between the Doc and the patient and between the staff and the patient so that you’re clear about things so that you don’t miss signals.

Rob Oliver: Okay. So help me understand this then. What is your definition of good communication? And how would you measure or how would you help someone else to measure the effectiveness of their communication?

Lynne Bowman: That’s a tough one, because, of course, doing science with two groups of humans, it’s never an easy thing to do. But I would love to participate in some kind of a study where, for example, a newly diagnosed type two diabetic was handed a book. Mine would be great. Mine is perfect. Was handed something interesting, fun, engaging, upbeat. And the doctor would say, look, everything you need to know about your diagnosis, what you need to eat, how to eat it, when to eat it. It’s in this book, and you’re going to love it. It’s great. It’ll make you happy. So I would love to do a study between how that patient did with that information and that book and how the patient did with a few sort of black and white sheets of stuff and an appointment to go to a class that talks about islet selves and things. Okay. People need to know, how do I do it? What do I do? And a little bit of why tucked in there is okay. But patients aren’t about why so much as they’re they are about what do I do now? What do I eat? What am I going to feel like?

Rob Oliver: So are you feeling like a lot of patients are forced almost to do their own research where they’re getting on the Internet?

Lynne Bowman: Absolutely.

Rob Oliver: Got it.

Lynne Bowman: The only reason I knew about the Ointment thing is because I finally went on Google like everybody else does and saw that. Yeah, bad idea. You shouldn’t do that. Okay. And I think I’m smart. Some grandma will know. That was a dumb move, but I didn’t know. I didn’t know.

Rob Oliver: What does quality healthcare mean to you?

Lynne Bowman: It means healthcare that keeps me out of healthcare. healthcare that keeps me out of the hospital, out of the ER , keeps me doing what I want to do. That’s what I want in healthcare. And I want it for everybody. And a shocking number we were talking before. I think it’s like 80%, 85% of people in this country have a chronic disease in some minor way or major way. Chronic disease is an epidemic in this country and some others because of the way we eat. And it is entirely, if not mostly preventable and reversible. And so all the billions of dollars we’re spending on healthcare and all the complaints about the hospital system and so on, if you take 85% of the business out of that, what does that do? What does that look like? If everybody ate their veggies, life would be so much simpler.

Rob Oliver: It’s a lot easier to eat your veggies if they’re fried in some way. But now I’m just kidding.

Lynne Bowman: No, you’re right. And Rob, as a country and this has actually been going on for 100 years or more. And I don’t know if you’ve read it yet, but I’m in the middle of James Nester’s book, which is fascinating. It’s called Breath. And I talk so much about sleep and food and how related exercise and food and timing is food. Well, the one thing I don’t talk much about in this book and he covers it all is breathing. And apparently because we breathe through our mouths, most of us all the time, it has actually changed the formation of our faces, our jaws and made our teeth crooked. We’re a society of crooked teeth because we’re not breathing. Right.

Rob Oliver: Wow.

Lynne Bowman: No.

Rob Oliver: Can you give me an example of quality healthcare?

Lynne Bowman: An example of quality healthcare. Well, a Doc who would give you this book or refer you out to that book. I am struggling here.

Rob Oliver: Okay. I don’t want to put words in your mouth.

Lynne Bowman: Okay. I’ve got one. All right. Go ahead. My youngest daughter is a health professional. She’s a nurse practitioner and she loves what she does because these are she’s basically a Doc, but different credentials, but they have enough time and inclination. She was floor nurse for a long time. She puts her hands on the patients and sits down and listens. And I put a little story in the book because it was what got me finishing the book. And she called me one afternoon and said I checked a guy in today and he’s a vet about your age. And she said I had to call you and tell you he was in to get his legs amputated because he was a severely out of control diabetic common. Very common. People don’t understand how common this is. This is what diabetes can do. So she sat with him and held his hands and she said, yeah, my mom is writing a book for people to reverse diabetes and help people and so on. And she said he got tears in his eyes and grabbed my hands and said, please tell her to write this book. So what it illustrates is a couple of things. The bad communication. He didn’t know that he was going to wind up like that. And two, she took the time to sit and hold his hands and listen to him. And anyone that you talk to who is and yourself included, who has any experience in the healthcare industry, as a patient, what you want is to be seen as a human being, to be heard, to make yourself clear, to get the truth from the doctor, to get the information from the doctor. It’s not so much that stent. That’s not what medicine really is. It’s literally putting your hands on someone and hearing them that’s good healthcare.

Rob Oliver: Sure. What do you wish people understood about your role in healthcare?

Lynne Bowman: Well, I wish they understood that. This is just a passion of mine. It’s a mission. This isn’t anything I do for profit or on behalf of a company or anything. As we laughed about earlier, I don’t make any money from this book, but I’m on a mission because I lost my mother very early. I was 18 when she died. I’m sorry. And then I was diagnosed early, unusually early, with type two diabetes. So my whole life as an adult has been, as I’m sure yours has, very up close and personal with medical care in some form or other. And as a woman, I can tell you some of it is shockingly horrendous. I had my kids in the 70s in North Carolina. All the doctors were men, and I can remember having an epidural. And these two guys standing over me, they were talking about their golf game because they didn’t understand that there was a human being alert and alive on the table. So I got issues there. That’s fine.

Rob Oliver: No problem. What excites you about the future of healthcare?

Lynne Bowman: Okay, well, remote healthcare is very exciting. All the things that we can do by speaking to each other remotely, I think, are very exciting. Meaning because along my theme of anything that keeps you out of the hospital and out of healthcare is the thing really worth pursuing. So remote visits and they’re so much better than a phone call because you can actually see what’s going on. They’re not being used well yet, I don’t think. But again, this goes back to docs need to train up in communication. The professionals need to get that this communication is as important or more so than the drug.

Rob Oliver: Yeah. Okay. So would you be a proponent of some form of medical communication being taught in Med school, that it’s a continuing education program? What would be your vision for how to share and build the communication skills of people in the medical profession?

Lynne Bowman: Great question. And absolutely, I would love to see a part of the curriculum in Med school. Sure. But our Med schools are so high bound, so tradition bound, they’re still teaching doctors how not to sleep fully in the knowledge that unless you sleep, you are killing brain cells and you can’t really function. So maybe being part of the curriculum would be helpful. Usually these things come from more sort of out in space where all of a sudden an organization like Kaiser, a big, huge health organization, will go, this won’t work. We need these guys to be communicating. And so doing it at the corporate level strikes me as being very important. And so, yeah, you teach it in Med school. We’ll see how that goes. And then have the big organizations hear this message, and everybody at Kaiser marches in lockstep with the protocols. So why not have a protocol for good communication and measure communication?

Rob Oliver: Okay. Is there a book or a resource or something that you would suggest to say this is a good resource for building your communication skills or at least assessing your ability to communicate with the patient.

Lynne Bowman: great question, and I don’t have anything other than my book, which I think is genius, but I don’t have anything right now. We can communicate if you want to, for show notes or whatever about something. I don’t think, it’s not a remote subject. There’s a guy named Seth Godin who’s a marketing guy. You probably know of him. He puts out a lot of interesting stuff about clarity and communication. And there are others.

Rob Oliver: Sure. Yeah, no problem. We’ll talk about this offline, and maybe if you’ve got something, we’ll see if I can sneak it in the show notes. It’s great.

Healthcare quality improvement strategies

What is one thing medical professionals can start doing today to improve the quality of healthcare?

Lynne Bowman: We’ve already talked about it. They can think more about how they are communicating on paper, online and in person with their patient. As part of every single appointment they have, they needed to be on the checklist. Have I really communicated with Mrs. Johnson? And as part of that, I would learn a way that I can say. So, Mrs. Johnson, how do you feel about this? What’s your thought about that, Mrs. Johnson? So when you go home today, what are you thinking will be the first thing that you do. So each medical will probably develop their own little system and their own protocol, depending on what the specialty is, what the practice is. But they need to be talking not to the screen, but to their patient, to their patient’s face. And they need to ask very directly. And I think that might take some training. I do. I think that might take some training because someone is teaching doctors that they don’t need to do this. I don’t know who that is, but we need to get them.

Rob Oliver: There’s a gap in the system somewhere.

Lynne Bowman: Yeah, huge gap.

Rob Oliver: All right. Lynne Bowman, thank you so much for being with me. Today. I appreciate you coming on. I appreciate you sharing and I appreciate your perspective on healthcare.

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Disclaimer: All opinions expressed by guests on the Perspectives on Healthcare Podcast are solely the opinion of the guest. They are not to be misconstrued as medical diagnoses or medical advice. Please consult with a licensed medical professional before attempting any of the treatments suggested.

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