Widening the channels of physician-patient communication

Based on the FastCompany article “Could the future of healthcare mean no waits in hospitals?,” this post explores the increasing role technology will play as providers switch from volume-based reimbursement models to value-based ones. In order for this to occur, a few key transformations must first occur to drive patient engagement.
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This week’s debut of health insurance exchanges marks a very important milestone in developing a patient population who is able to access and engage in their own health and well-being.  Informed healthcare consumers are also essential to successfully transitioning to value-based care, another strategic goal of the industry.  However, the truth is that these policies and regulatory changes have become a distraction both for patients and for physicians, shifting the focus away from care to bureaucracy.  I whole-heartedly believe that not only hospitals, but the healthcare industry itself, must leverage technology to refocus on what matters most – the patient. 

In a recent Fast Company article, “Could The Future of Health Care Mean No Waits in Hospitals?,” I reflected on how this shift to value-based care will impact hospitals and the next generation of patient care.  Below are a few key transformations that need to happen in order for healthcare providers to better serve their patient populations and to further drive patient engagement as part of the care process moving forward:

Knowledge is power.  With the implementation of Meaningful Use stage 2, patient portals will foster clinician-patient communication, but more needs to happen.  Hospitals need to offer web-based patient education to engage with their patients.  Providing reliable, easy-to-understand information will not only help alleviate some of the anxiety brought on by the “unknown,” but also help patients and their families prepare a list of questions to ask their physician in advance of their appointment. 

Living in the age of connectivity.  Since we’re almost always “plugged in,” why not use this to our health advantage.  Why aren’t we leveraging text message reminders for upcoming appointments or creating more apps that enable patients to access their full electronic health records, monitor test results and tick off actions on their health checklists (for instance, FitBit, CarePass, or FitLinxx). 

Creating collaborative patient notes.  mHealth apps will continue to encourage patients to become increasingly involved in monitoring their own health.  Additionally, we need to consider the role social media can play in helping clinicians form a collaborative and robust health record.  Innovators, like Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, are piloting a clinical documentation approach that enables physicians to document collectively in one note using specific templates.  This “Twitter-esque” version of clinical documentation could potentially create a more collaborative way to create patient notes. The next generation of clinical notes will be collaborative in nature and include team-authored documentation eliminating data duplication.

The bottom-line is this:  In order to derive the maximum value from changes taking place across the healthcare industry, we need to become active participants in the process.  Technology that enables on-the-go access to information and helps extend physician-patient communication beyond office and hospital visits will help consumers drive toward this new and exciting reality.

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Dr. Nick van Terheyden

About Dr. Nick van Terheyden

This is a contributed post by Dr. Nick van Terheyden. As a pioneering creator in the evolution of healthcare technology, he brings a distinctive blend of medical practitioner and business strategist to the realm of health IT. To see more content like this, visit the Healthcare section of the blog.