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We believe improving healthcare is all about people and the relationships they have

Efficiency is a common objective of organisations especially businesses. The same organisations are often keen to build relationships with their customers. Here I am going to suggest that striving for both in the same interactions will be like trying to grasp the wind. In any given interaction you can have transactional efficiency or a deepening relationship. Deepening relationships depend on generosity, abundance and a trust that it means more than the sum of the transactions.

If you will, please humour me with a couple of thought experiments.

If you look at the parts of your life where you strive for or desire efficiency, you probably dislike them. Why else would you want it completed in the most efficient manner? Otherwise you would savour, contemplate, revisit, revise, enjoy, experiment and enthuse about it.

Now examine your most intimate relationship with another person. How much of that relationship is based on striving for efficiency? Expand your search as soon as you find an interaction with another person where efficiency is a key feature you don’t have a relationship you have transactions.

Life and nature are not efficient. They are full of excess and we love them for it. A plant does not produce just enough flowers, for just enough seeds, to efficiently continue; it produces in abundance. Each relationship in the systems of nature are not static in balance, but part of a dynamic interplay.

When I see an interaction in healthcare where one party is aiming for efficiency, then I usually find the death of care. An interaction where the joy has been sucked from it. The person receiving the interaction is likely to feel at best like just a number in a system.

If you wish to build a relationship, bring back excess, ‘waste’ time together, be inefficient. Parents have been exhorted to spend ‘quality time’ with their children, to build better relationships (how very efficient) however the relationships are better when you spend ‘quantity time’ with them. ‘Waste’ time just listening, really listening to the significant people in your life, it is inefficient, you won’t get anything from it, but watch how it builds the relationship.

If you want to build relationships with patients, customers, consumers you need to ‘waste’ time with them, it will be worth it.