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Empathetic Listening: The Key To Unlocking Better Care And Better Health Outcomes

Why you are here

The best medical practitioners share one thing: a passion for helping people.

Choosing to practice medicine isn’t easy, is it? It’s a demanding path, but there’s nothing better than engaging with patients, listening to their needs, and helping them improve their lives.

Unfortunately, you’ve probably experienced the roadblocks that the current healthcare system throws in the way of care teams and patients. Long wait times, short visits, poor care coordination, and high costs are typical of most patients’ experiences. This can be incredibly frustrating for providers, who don’t have the time or resources to give each patient the individual attention they wish they could.

At Vera, we want to raise the expectations that providers and patients have about healthcare.

We’re taking on the challenges that hold medical practitioners back — but we can’t do it alone. We need physicians, nurses, health coaches, and medical staff who share our belief that patients deserve to be heard and that empathetic listening is the key to building trust with patients.

If that’s you, keep reading. In this resource, you’ll see more about Vera’s values and vision of healthcare. Most importantly, you’ll see how empathetic listening is the key that unlocks positive change for patients and allows providers to practice care the way it was always meant to be.

Here’s what you’ll find below:

“I think what patients like most about Vera is being heard, 

and also having the time with their providers, having the supportive services like health coaching for proactive and preventative health. I think that they're surprised by that.”

Heidi Beer, Vera Whole Health Coach, Anchorage

Practicing in a
broken system

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown just how broken the fee-for-service healthcare model is. Patients are facing high costs and reduced access — barriers that were designed to reduce provider costs but ended up doing the opposite.

Patients need affordable, high-quality preventive and holistic care, but the system can’t provide it. Providers don’t have the resources they need to fully engage patients. So patients ignore health issues that often turn into costly chronic conditions or emergencies. It’s no wonder that 6 in 10 American adults have a chronic health condition.

No time

Eight minutes. That’s the average amount of time providers get with a patient to discuss their health concerns. There’s no time to get to know a patient or understand and address their unique concerns and health barriers. Eight minutes restricts providers to diagnosing an isolated issue and prescribing medication — and sometimes it’s not even enough time for that. Diagnostic errors affect 12 million adults in outpatient settings per year, and rushed appointments make it more difficult to gather a complete medical history and discuss further steps in the diagnostic process.

High volume

In most healthcare settings, practitioners feel pressured to see as many patients as possible: an average of 20+ patients per day. This model comes at the cost of valuable time that patients and medical practitioners need to connect on an individual basis and really talk about the root causes of health issues.


Patients receive care from several providers but that care isn’t coordinated in a meaningful way. Even if providers try their best to listen to patients and understand their full health story, they can’t because information isn’t managed and shared. This makes it difficult for providers to follow up with patients and help them the way they want to.

High costs

In a fee-for-service model, practitioners often worry about a patient’s financial barriers. One study found that 25% of Americans had to forego medical care because they couldn’t afford it. If a lab test or prescription is too expensive, the patient may skip it. Or they may struggle to pay the bills, leaving the clinic with the cost. These financial barriers often affect a practitioner’s suggested course of treatment. They’re working against a financial barrier that at times seems impossible to navigate around.

Reactive care

Because of high costs and time demands, patients don’t always make it a priority to visit the doctor. They put it off until a health issue demands immediate attention and is more expensive to treat.

The tragic results

Forcing practitioners to work in a system that holds them back from helping people isn’t sustainable. Overworked practitioners wish they could take the time to listen and connect with each patient but they can’t. And if it continues? Burnout and provider shortages will be the result.

“So much of what happens in medicine is you see your primary care provider for one thing, a gastroenterologist for something else, and a physical therapist. You see all these different people that are connected to specific systems or organs, but they’re not talking to each other. They’re not connected in any way.”

Nina Auerbach, Vera Whole Health
Coach, Seattle

The results are tragic for patients. With rushed appointments and fragmented care, they can feel like their health provider doesn’t really know them or understand their challenges. They lose motivation to visit their care center, and even worse, may stop taking steps to improve their health.

The cycle of overworked practitioners and lost patients needs to end. At Vera, we’re taking back control. We’re offering a better solution — and it all starts with a fresh look at primary care. Here’s how it works.

Advanced primary
Putting empathetic
listening into action

Providers and patients need a care environment that is designed to prioritize empathetic listening.

Empathetic listening is especially important in the context of primary care, an area that has massive potential to improve health outcomes through effective preventive care and true care coordination.

Primary care can be an environment where you’re able to work to the top of your license at all levels. Preventive care, acute treatments, and chronic condition management — primary care was intended to do it all. And with a new model of advanced primary care, you can build meaningful connections with patients that lead to more effective care.

Practice real prevention

The CDC estimates that 7 out of 10 Americans die from a chronic disease. That makes preventive care incredibly important.

In most healthcare settings, preventive care means screening, such as cervical or colorectal cancer screenings. These measures are important but they’re not preventive. The goal is early discovery of disease. At Vera, we believe real prevention is something more: managing the underlying causes of disease.

This includes lack of exercise, elevated stress, poor sleep, or increased weight. To understand these causes and help patients deal with them, care teams need to practice empathetic listening.

To encourage patients to take an active part in preventive care, we incentivize them to schedule regular preventive care appointments. This gives providers more opportunities to connect with patients, listen to them, learn about the underlying factors that could lead to health issues, and help prevent those issues.

Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.

Constitution of the World Health Organization (WHO)

Focus on whole health

Too many providers are forced to practice in a sick care system where symptom control and disease management are the norm. At Vera, you can work as part of a system that focuses on behavior change, preventive care, and a person’s whole health.

Instead of just responding to a never-ending cycle of symptoms, you can help patients experience meaningful change and attain better health.

Extensive research has shown strong links between a person’s physical, psychological, and social well-being. According to the American Hospital Association:

57% of people experience a behavioral health disorder in their lifetime
27% of patients with medical conditions also have mental health conditions

It can be frustrating to be a health provider in a system where your patients’ health is affected by so many factors that are outside your direct control. At Vera, providers use empathetic listening to dive deeper into the psychological and social pressures that affect their health. Providers also have more tools and resources to address these different factors.

“We like to promote a psychosocial model and that recognizes that patients aren’t just diseases, they are whole people.

That means that they’ve got social concerns, behavioral health concerns, as well as medical concerns, and we want to make sure that we fit their medical concerns within the broader context of their life.”

Sarat Raman, MD, Vera Chief Medical Director

The care center as a medical home

A primary care center should be the first place patients go when they have health concerns. But it can also be so much more: the place where the majority of their care needs are met and where they feel listened to and understood.

That’s why our care centers are designed to be a patient’s “medical home,” the base for all their healthcare. They can go to appointments, meet with a provider, follow up with a health coach, fill prescriptions, have lab work done, and more.

Throughout these engagements, they’re connecting with a provider who takes the time to get to know them as an individual.

This also means that as a provider, you can supervise care more closely and guide patients every step of the way. You’ll be practicing at the top of your license and providing care with a personal connection.

“This was one of the best medical appointments I have ever had.

Everyone from the receptionist to the doctor made me feel like their number one priority. They spent more time with me than I ever expected and showed an honest concern with everything about me and my health.”

Vera patient, Seattle Firefighters

True care coordination

Patients with complex conditions and chronic illnesses like diabetes can easily get lost in the system. When they fall through the cracks, their health problems are exacerbated. A lack of care coordination is a big reason why the sickest 5% of Americans account for 50% of all healthcare spending.

In the current healthcare system, specialists and primary care providers aren’t empowered to communicate. Our approach to care coordination solves that problem, promoting the best possible patient outcomes.

When a patient needs to see a specialist, we provide comprehensive care coordination. Providers refer patients within a network of high-quality, low-cost specialists. And we make sure everyone stays connected to ensure effective follow-up treatment during the next step of the patient’s health journey. Providers have the certainty that patients are getting the care they need as they shepherd them through the process.

How providers use
empathetic listening at Vera

Vera trains all our providers, nurses, and health coaches in a unique coach approach. At the core, it’s all about empathetic listening. When members feel heard, they become more invested in their health and want to make changes for the better.



    Members get longer appointments. Annual Whole Health Evaluations last an hour. Providers have the time to form meaningful relationships with patients, identify the root causes of health issues, and work together to find solutions.

  • Telehealth and virtual care

    Empathetic listening can happen almost anywhere, and Vera is dedicated to making it easy for people to feel heard. We meet patients where they are by helping them to connect with providers and health coaches via telephone and videoconferencing.

  • Focus on behavior change

    Experts say that 70% of healthcare costs are associated with poor lifestyle choices. That means behavior change is one of the keys to improving health.

Time and empathetic listening allow care teams to find out what a patient’s goals are and what’s holding them back. Our whole health coaches are trained in core coaching competencies, the psychology of motivation, and evidence-based theories of behavior change. They work closely with providers to empower patients with strategies to change their behaviors.

“The focus is really on building relationships.

Everybody here from the provider to the coach to the nurse to the front desk — everybody is really clear that part of our mission is focusing on the relationship … looking at the whole person and the environment surrounding that person.”

Allie Quady, Vera Whole Health Coach

How empathetic listening transforms the member experience

Our care model doesn’t just look good on paper. It works. With more time for empathetic listening, we’re making a big impact on the health of our members. They’re getting healthier, becoming engaged, and finding the support they need to be proactive about improving their health. Here are just a few examples of the results we’re seeing in our care centers:



    Empathetic listening creates an exceptional care experience. That’s why our members are so engaged. Over the course of two years, our care center at the City of Kirkland had an average patient engagement rate of 83%.

  • More meaningful preventive care

    Empathetic listening leads to more effective preventive care and better health outcomes. At our Seattle Children’s care center, our approach led to a 70% reduction in ER and urgent care visits.

  • Patient satisfaction

    We’re always looking for ways to improve our member experience, which is why we ask every member to rate us. Because we always make time for each person as an individual, our satisfaction scores across clients average 4.8 out of 5.

Time and empathetic listening allow care teams to find out what a patient’s goals are and what’s holding them back. Our whole health coaches are trained in core coaching competencies, the psychology of motivation, and evidence-based theories of behavior change. They work closely with providers to empower patients with strategies to change their behaviors.

“The amount of time my practitioner spent with me discussing my health was phenomenal.

It is so rare these days for a doctor to sit and spend time listening and discussing treatment plans with their patients. I am so pleased to see Vera making this a priority.”

Vera patient, City of Kirkland

We’re reshaping
healthcare. Join us.

We’re doing things differently because the status quo just isn’t working. Patients are getting sicker and practitioners are getting burned out.

You chose to pursue a career in healthcare because you want to help people — and see their lives improve. We want to support your pursuit of high-quality, preventive, coordinated care. We’re here to help you help people.

If you answer yes to the questions below, contact us to learn more about bringing your practice to Vera.

  • Do you want to help patients transform their lives and meet their health goals?
  • Do you wish you could take more time to connect with patients?
  • Are you ready to join a care team with other people who share your passion?

If you think it’s time to change the way people engage with their health, contact us today. Let’s transform healthcare, together.

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Get started with advanced primary care

Get in touch today to learn how you can work with Vera to operate at the top of your license and practice healthcare the way it was meant to be.