Quality and cost. Two of the most important elements of the healthcare industry today, and key ingredients driving the shift from volume- to value-based care. Providers face tremendous pressure to deliver higher-quality care at a lower cost, and engaging patients in their own care can help on both of these fronts. On top of better health outcomes, engaged patients also typically report higher satisfaction levels.
The problem? Many patients’ interactions with their doctors are limited to the 10-minute in-person visit. Patients can often feel rushed and forget the questions they wanted to ask, and don’t have the time to process new information, leading to frustration. The patients return home, only to feel they’ve lost access to the personalized care and support of an in-person visit.
So, how can providers engage their patients between visits? There are a few ways technology can help bridge this gap.
The proliferation of wearables and mobile devices means we are now more connected than ever before. Patients can monitor and report activity levels, symptoms, and even vital signs today from the comfort of their own homes. When shared with doctors, this data can not only empower patients to self-manage their care, but also inform clinical teams, creating a more productive in-person visit. Data overload for the physician is easily avoidable by setting mutually-aligned goals with the patient. The patient monitors his or her vital sign ranges, and the physician is only alerted when a vital falls outside that range.
Often, a large portion of the office visit is spent educating patients about conditions and treatments. But when the patient only has a short, fixed amount of time with the doctor, retaining instructions or other information can be hard to do. What if that same education could be delivered virtually, though, freeing up more time with the patient to answer questions and have other discussion? For instance, a digital health program could educate patients about how to manage their allergies during the approaching pollen season, or teach them how to properly use an inhaler.
As simple as it sounds, a quick note to a patient between visits can improve patient engagement. In fact, a recent study from the International Journal for Quality in Health Care found that secure messaging “appears to be associated with higher quality diabetes care, particularly among at-risk populations.” By feeling more connected to care teams, patients often report higher satisfaction levels and may be more engaged in self-managing their conditions. The use of video can also propel the connected relationship for the patient. In seeing a provider’s face, patients can develop a deeper bond with the entire care team.
The in-person doctor visit holds a valuable place in the care continuum and cannot - and should not - be fully replaced. The relationships and trust built during face-to-face time are crucial in caring for patients in their health journey. With the right tools, however, these visits can be supplemented to facilitate even more trust and compassion, while delivering healthier outcomes. We’re committed to bridging this gap to improve patients’ lives and look forward to driving innovation in this area.
Fred Altimont is executive vice president at ViiMed, a digital health company that delivers customers’ care plans for acute, chronic, and episodic conditions through cloud-based software.