Archive for November, 2011
Health Care IT is seeking to improve the delivery of health care and encourage a system that is more responsive and tailored to the individual. It is a goal that should receive widespread support from all constituents, yet the average patient has many misunderstandings and misapprehensions that not only create a less favorable environment, but actually can undermine the success of programs currently underway. Effective communication with all levels of people involved in the process is a necessity to ensure patients are comfortable with the process and trust the system.
For example, according to a recent study, physicians are more likely than their patients to view electronic health record systems as safer than paper records. The November survey found that a little more than half of responding physicians (54%) believe that EHRs are safer, while only 39% of patients agree. Conversely, only 18% of physicians see paper records as the safer alternative, while 47% of patients believe paper is safer.
Much of the reform contained in the HITECH section of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) bill centers on the successful transition to the EHR system. The federal incentives to promote EHR adoption are in full swing and practices across the country are working to attain meaningful use standards. Yet this survey indicated the average patient has a less-than-enthusiastic reaction to the idea – an attitude that can hinder successful implementation. Education and communication are necessary to allow patients to understand why EHRs don’t represent a threat to privacy; to the contrary, they are safer than paper charts and will ultimately ensure better care. The right messaging should promote patients to demand a digital solution over traditional paper.
A July study conducted by Harris Interactive for the Xerox Corporation also indicated that greater efforts need to be made to assure patients that their personal medical information will be safe and secure. About 80 percent of respondents worried about stolen personal information by a computer hacker. The threat of lost, damaged, or corrupted records was the second biggest concern. A majority indicated they lacked a clear understanding of how EHRs might affect them at all, and only 18 percent said they had a healthcare provider discuss EHRs with them. Such responses indicate a significant need for increased communication directly to patients to ensure a clear understanding of the benefits of EHR implementation is demonstrated. A better understanding of EHRs would demonstrate that not only will such records be more efficient, but they will also provide better security than traditional paper-based systems.
The need for communication with patients in all areas is increasingly apparent. New measurements of successful treatment put patient satisfaction as an important metric, yet a recent study in the British Medical Journal: Quality and Safety suggests that providers may not be tapped into patients’ wants or needs. While most clinicians (about 90%) say it’s important to ask patients about their expectations, most don’t ask patients what they are and thus don’t respond to patients’ expectations adequately; only about 16% of clinicians reported asking patients about their expectations.
Yet the “patient experience” is become a top priority for many hospital leaders. This aspect goes beyond care delivered and considers factors such as customer service and the overall environment. While it can be difficult to define and measure how to improve the patient experience, it seems obvious that meaningful communication plays a key role. This means not only ensuring patients have a clear picture of care provided, but also ensuring that patients’ contributions to the dialogue are received, understood, and appreciated. This two-way communication will benefit all parties. Consider a study that shows that a majority of patients won’t sue if they suspect a medical mistake; they’ll simply “take a hike,” according to a new study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
The study indicates that in the majority of cases, the physician hadn’t done anything wrong; yet patients often suspected errors, whether for valid reasons or not. Improved communication could give patients a better understanding of what they should be expecting from treatment, as well as allowing concerns to be voiced and responded to before patients terminate treatment prematurely. Even when real mistakes have occurred, recent research also indicates that patients are more forgiving when doctors own up to mistakes and offer compensation.
It all adds up to remembering the most basic rule of all partnerships: effective communication is needed at all levels to ensure success. This will prove a vital part of recreating a patient-centric system that revolves around individualized medicine and personal accountability.