In the age of health IT, doctors and patients need to learn how to communicate

Separately, doctors and patients are facing a steep learning curve as the HIT transition continues. But the biggest problem looming may be the one that the two camps can only solve together.

As this doctor presents it, “the digital age has had a deep and likely permanent effect on the patient-physician relationship.”

That, of course, may be the mother of all understatements, as there are so many pieces to the changing patient-physician relationship. And the first challenge is to separate the “good” changes from the “bad.”

After citing just a couple examples in both columns, he suggests “we need to resolve the current tension between the philosophy that idealizes the physician as always being right and patients’ newfound autonomy and access to information. We need to engage in a thoughtful discussion about how the new disruptive digital technologies can help both patients and physicians get what they need. After all, both have the same ultimate goals: good clinical outcomes and a meaningful relationship.”

Later on, he says, “For disruptive solutions to be successful, all of us must be willing to adapt the traditional doctor-patient relationship. Patients and physicians alike are confused and disoriented by the new digital world, even while being empowered by the knowledge they can impart. These cutting edge technologies have the potential to dramatically improve a patient’s healthcare experience, but to get there, we first have to engage in some good old fashioned talk.”

In the end, this may be one part of the HIT transition on which policymakers will have relatively little influence. At the same time, it’s the part that could determine how thoroughly the transition takes hold, as well as how effectively HIT manages to improve both the delivery of healthcare and ultimate healthcare outcomes.