4 ways health IT can build trust
Medicine is a two-way street; it works best when the patient and the provider trust each other, and can work together for the best outcome. While technology can enable those outcomes, when improperly used -- consider the epidemic of patient data breaches -- it can also raise some eyebrows and scare some people away from embracing it. Scott Zimmerman, president at TeleVox Software, understands these concerns. But he sees technology offering a net gain on the road to improving patien-physician relationships and enhancing trust. He shares four ways health IT can improve the quality of care and enhance trust between the patient and the provider.
1. Care smarter, not harder. Healthcare's focus on quality of care means the way many people view their care, and their interactions with healthcare providers, is going to change. Zimmerman notes that "with ACA, we're going to see a lot more patients coming in for wellness visits that the system can't deliver." How does healthcare technology impact this? "Most people coming in [for a doctor's visit] are being asked to change some aspect of their behavior," he says. Health technology can help physicians and patients track their progress. It can help automate some of the conversation, as well. Zimmerman outlines a scenario where customized messages can be crafted out of structured data. "After these lab values, this is the message I want to send to the patient," he says.
2. Enhance the physician workflow. Why is it that the waiting room continues to be a labyrinth of paper forms to fill out, and any follow-up care always seems to be a scheduling nightmare? Technology here promises to help scale up the processes in a hospital or doctor's office without taking up more time or requiring more manpower. "They can't add more workload to the staff," Zimmerman says. Technology can take over for clinicians when it comes to some of the more benign data capture and aggregation roles, for a start. Think about admission paperwork. "People would rather fill those forms out at home," says Zimmerman, who adds that "We'll increasingly see online patient forms, things like that, create all types of efficiency."
3. Drive engagement. Doctors can only do so much. If the patient doesn't engage in his or her care, the quality of the outcome can be significantly reduced. This hurts everything from the patient to the practice's bottom line. Zimmerman says practices that use technology to communicate with patients and stay connected with them about their care will see a higher rate of engagement. "You see people generally talking about increased feelings of trust, and that they're more valued as a patient." Ways to make this angle more powerful include placing an emphasis on personalizing both the information and the way it is delivered. By delivering relevent information in the way the patient is most likely to engage with it, practices demonstrate that "they care and that visits are more than just transactions," he says.
4. Keep security in mind. Vital to the success of health IT implementation is a constant watch on security. While holding one's own organization accountable to rigorous security standards is crucial, the road does not end there. Zimmerman says organizations "have to be aware of the vendors they choose. If they go through a presentation, they need to be sure they understand what this vendor's commitment is to ISO 27002, processing controls, HIPAA, HITECH, etc." The reason for this, he says, is that, while an organization may attest to a certain level of standards, it is still liable for security if it contracts with another group. Being aware of the security of the larger ecosystem of which an organization is part is a way to quell data loss and enhance the trust of patients. "You want to choose someone who's committed to these things proactively, as opposed to reactively," he says.