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Patient Engagement: Improving the Patient-Doctor Relationship

Posted by Sue Ellen McKelvey on June 20, 2017

patient and doctorSolid, trusting patient-doctor relationships, always important to quality care, have become even more so in recent years. Today's healthcare consumers simply aren't satisfied with the traditional, doctor-in-the-driver's-seat relationship that once dominated healthcare interactions. Rather, they expect a more collaborative and patient-centered relationship, one that helps them feel valued, heard, and respected as active participants in their own process of care.

Not only does this type of relationship better satisfy the modern healthcare consumer, it is also beneficial to the care process in a variety of ways. Perhaps most important is the affect that solid healthcare relationships can have on patient engagement, and the effect that increased patient engagement can have on overall health outcomes. Research has shown that patients who feel engaged with and connected to their healthcare providers via a trusting, mutually respectful working relationship are more likely to adhere to treatment plans and to achieve more satisfactory health outcomes than those who do not.

Meanwhile, research also shows that healthcare providers could be doing a much better job in building these relationships and promoting that beneficial patient engagement. According to the 2016 NEJM Catalyst Insights Council survey, 42 percent of respondents – a group made up of clinicians, clinician leaders and health care executives – stated that less than a quarter of their patients were highly engaged, and more than 70 percent reported having less than half of their patients highly engaged.

So what could these providers be doing better when it comes to building patient trust and engagement? Communication is a key player when it comes to relationship building – and it seems that typical patient-doctor communication is an area with plenty of room for improvement.

Effective ways of improving communication include taking measures to improve interpersonal skills, such as active listening, face to face interactions, mindfulness and presence. In the digital age this means employing a variety of 'patient engagement' tools in everyday practice that work to open lines of communication between clinicians their clinical team and the clients that are their focus. Perhaps most useful for these purposes are robust and seamless patient portals, which have been shown to offer benefits for engaging patients With a concerted approach or plan for their active engagement: in terms of patient activation, engagement and timely actions at home. This is the way to show effectiveness in managing the client in their own health journey and fostering a sense of ownership of their well-being.

Patient portals, when integrated to your healthcare IT system / PMS and EHR systems, offer healthcare consumers access to a number of features that place them squarely in the middle of their own healthcare journey. Among the most important of these are online access to their own health information and a ethical amount of emails/newsletters to engage them in their health education. A robust healthcare IT system can tailor their areas according to their journey in your clinic. A targeted health education can increase their ability to interact knowledgeably and confidently with their clinical team about their care decision making and a more solid or reliable agreement to a care plan proposed.

Secure messaging between healthcare clients and providers is essential; this is always personal health information PHI and it is to be 100% secured. Many internet based chat rooms/meeting facilities are being used; just check for security and don't jeopardize privacy issues.

As we move forward into digital health - look for a healthcare IT platform that has inbuilt 100% secured telehealth facilities available. This alternative approach for follow up appointments and classes is the future. This digital world of healthcare delivery embraces full possibilities of healthcare encounters. These new digital encounters will only be judged by the health outcomes delivered and the patients/clients themselves.

A bonus comment for your embracing of patient engagement tools is that you are also getting ready for the next stages of value based care and reporting. The aspects of quality care and how this is measured and monitored will include the frequency and type of direct and digital interactions, which means building feelings of connection and trust between the clinical team and the client. Features that increase the convenience of client-clinician interactions, such as online appointment management and prescription renewals, for instance, also work to engender engagement - clients feel valued and respected.

The bottom line is that clinicians must respond to these demands of their clients. They want better communication and more collaboration to foster this highly valued patient-doctor relationship. The digital age offers new ways to build the trust and respect. The quality of this relationship has a great deal of influence on the quality of care delivered to clients, and ultimately, the health outcomes that result from that care.

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Additional Resources:

1. Doctors' Interpersonal Skills Valued More Than Their Training or Being Up-to-Date

2. Improving Physicians' Relationships with Patients

3. Physician communication and patient adherence to treatment: a meta-analysis

4.The Influence of the Patient-Clinician Relationship on Healthcare Outcomes: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials

5. Patient Engagement Survey: Improved Engagement Leads to Better Outcomes, but Better Tools Are Needed

6. 5 Ways to Improve Physician-patient Relationships

7. What are the Top Pros and Cons of Adopting Patient Portals?


Topics: Patient Engagement solutions

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