Communication Tool to Enhance Patient Satisfaction

Communication can really break down when a patient or family member is worried or not feeling well.  Add the element of age and hearing loss and that communication pathway is further impaired.  On the provider side, you may be running behind or still thinking about your last patient’s care and deliver instructions too fast for the average 80-year old to find 100% comprehension.

Building infrastructure around the communication process will improve engagement and most likely compliance.  Adding to your communication pipeline might be good medicine as well as good marketing.

Kaiser Permanente has 3.3 million online PHR (personal health record) users.  Recent research has been done by Kaiser to find data to support the theory that greater access leads to greater engagement.  Some of that research will be shared this week at HIMSS but a preview by Valerie Sue at Kaiser, indicates that patients who can use email with clinicians, can check lab test results, schedule appointments, refill prescriptions and review visit information are simply more engaged.  They have an alternative route to communication about their health that goes beyond the fast moving office visit.

PHRs can be a significant tool to empower patients, communicate more meaningfully and help patients take more control of their own health status. Jan Oldberg, practice leader for internet services group at Kaiser, states that there is clear evidence that PHR use in positively correlated to increased patient motivation.  Oldberg also indicates that PHRs have also led to a drop in calls and visits.

Going back to the communication issue in a busy practice.…a PHR can serve as a communication device and help physicians provide their patients with the ability to access accurate and timely information and help their patients keep track of their health issues.  Patients don’t have to rely on remembering everything the physicians said during the office visit.

A Step Toward Coordination

A recent survey conducted by the Markel organization indicates that physicians would also prefer a computerized method of sharing information with each other. In the 2010 survey, only 17% of the physicians queried use a computer-based method for communicating with referring physicians and yet 74% indicated they would prefer a computer-based method when sharing patient information with each other.

The 2011 Markle Survey on Health in a Networked Life also compares physician and patient preference on information dissemination.  Summary findings as reported by the Markle organization indicate:

  • Nearly all physicians indicate that their patients sometimes or most times forget potentially important things they are told.
  • Both physicians and patients indicate important information is sometimes forgotten or lost in their interactions.
  • Nearly half of the public perceives that their ‘main doctor’ is the one who should keep the patient’s most accurate, complete health and medical records.
  • And yet 2 out of 5 physician groups say it is the patient and not the physician who should perform such a role.
  • 15% of the general public believes that no one is performing this role.
  • Both physicians and patients alike believe that patients should be able to obtain and keep a copy of their own personal health information.
  • 93% of the public rarely or never request copies of their health information in an electronic format

The Markle Survey of Health in a Networked Life also has interesting findings on preferences:

  • For physicians, 74% would prefer computer-based means of sharing patient information with each other.
  • 47% of the physicians surveyed also indicate they would prefer to have a computer-based means of sharing records with their patients while only 5% do so today.
  • 70% of the general public favor patients receiving a written or online summary after each medical while only 4% of physician indicate they currently provide patient summaries.

Providing access to a PHR takes the pressure off the office visit communication and provides  tools that can help your patient become more engaged and informed about their own health concerns.  Seems like a no-brainer method to improve upon the patient experience.

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