As medicine moves toward more risk management, physicians are going to get paid more based on making the patient better. This means there will be a greater need for staying connected between visits to better track patient health. There are many ways this can be achieved with today’s technology such as texting, emails or a patient portal.
When you have patients in the office for their first visit or a follow-up, it is very important that you capture patient data such as their cell phone number and email. This data can help you not only stay connected with patients but can also be used to improve care. For example, a practice can send out an email to their patients that are due for their mammogram or colon rectal screening and assist them in setting up their appointment. This has been proven to increase screenings, and thus, a possible early diagnosis of cancer.
Patients who have chronic health conditions such as diabetes, cancer or COPD, may not be able to handle their conditions on their own. When physicians and their staff help them manage their conditions through email, patient portals, etc., it is not only a team based approach but can be successful in improving patients’ conditions over time.
Social media is another way that physicians can communicate with their patients on a broader approach by posting or tweeting articles or having a blog on important healthcare issues. This type of communications should remain generic and not be used to communication directly with patients (see HIPAA below).
Physicians should be mindful of demographics when communicating with patients outside the office. Older patients may not have a computer or regularly check email. A different approach such as a phone call after hours or a brief letter with their next appointment and/or physician recommendations should be sent out.
Remember that all electronic communications with patients should be encrypted to keep with HIPAA guidelines. Patients and physicians need to think of healthcare communication like communication with your bank, credit card or financial services company.
As we move more into telemedicine, the ability to communicate directly with patients will increase. We hope that these new connections will only help improve on the important patient-physician relationship.