Best tech tools to communicate with patients? Time for doctors to ask

Cultivating a strong relationship with patients can translate into higher satisfaction scores but there is a widespread failure to communicate about the most appropriate way to reach consumers.
By Bernie Monegain
10:14 AM
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How patients and their healthcare providers communicate has changed big time over recent years as more discussion occur electronically today than ever before. But how do physicians feel about email, cell phone and text interactions? And what should hospital and IT executives understand about those answers to more effectively craft a patient experience?

For starters, your doctors are most concerned about patients missing urgent messages and the potential for misunderstanding information delivered via electronic messages, according to a new Regenstrief Institute study. Clinicians also worry about the time they spend on electronic communication with patients, not to mention data security.

[Also: HIMSS18 Patient Engagement and Experience Summit: New strategies for precision medicine, telehealth, social determinants]

Doctors use mobile phones more than email to communicate with patients. Fewer than half of the 149 clinicians Regenstrief surveyed, in fact, use email to communicate with patients. 

Ineffective or insufficient communication has been shown in previous studies to lower patient satisfaction as well as adherence to physician orders. Regenstrief researchers concluded that the relationship a clinician and patient have may have a greater impact on patient satisfaction than the type of technology used to communicate. 

Here’s a twist in the research: 70 percent of participating clinicians indicated they would use it to reply -- if a patient emailed them first. 

Call it a communication breakdown. 

"It's time doctor and patient have a face-to-face conversation during an office visit discussing how each of them feels about electronic communication,” the study said. 

That would give patients a chance to discuss their electronic access and their comfort level with getting information electronically and for doctors to share their own concerns with patients. And it really matters for hospitals and physicians because doctors who have a stronger relationship with their patients, and who let them know how to contact them either online or off, may have better patient satisfaction than those who do not, the study concluded.

Using various technologies to communicate with patients will be among the topics at the upcoming HIMSS18 Patient Engagement and Experience Summit. Register now.

Twitter: @Bernie_HITN
Email the writer: bernie.monegain@himssmedia.com