Patient engagement taking doctors outside their comfort zone

By Jeff Rowe
10:24 AM

You want your doctors to be good at delivering care, right? 

Some stakeholders, however, think that very expertise is what's getting in the way of efforts to improve overall patient engagement.

At this week's HIMSS and Healthcare IT News Patient Engagement Summit in San Diego, Daniel Sands, MD, an assistant professor at the Harvard School of Medicine and co-founder and co-chairman of the Society for Participatory Medicine, said "today's clinicians aren't meeting the needs of an increasingly engaged and empowered patient population because they're still too focused on what they're good at – delivering critical care – and not paying attention to the spaces in between."

Echoing Sands, Jonathan R. Slotkin, MD, medical director of the Geisinger Health System's "Geisinger in Motion" program, conceded that patient engagement is a "nebulous term," but he went on to suggest that as the healthcare sector moves to a value-driven, consumer oriented system, it's going to become increasingly important for providers to actively engage their patients in order to understand them better.  But that, he conceded, takes providers out of their comfort zone.

Nonetheless, said Sands, providers have to stop looking at healthcare as primarily as a service industry and more as a lifelong collaboration.