Every good clinician knows that doctor-patient communication can make or break the patient experience. It also affects health outcomes. People can’t follow a doctor’s orders if they don’t fully understand their care plans, and they won’t follow them if they don’t trust their physicians. That kind of trust and clarity hinges on effective patient communication.
Doctors do their best to communicate important insights during exams and appointments, but their explanations and advice often get lost in translation. People immediately forget 40 to 80 percent of the information they receive in medical settings, according to the Department of Psychology at Allegheny College. The more information patients receive, the less they remember.
Effective physician communication is ongoing, timely, and increasingly multi-channel — especially in the age of social distancing. With the right technology and patient communication strategy in place, healthcare providers can connect with patients from anywhere and ensure patients have all the information and support they need to stay healthy in-between visits.
How can providers fundamentally transform patient communication?
Telemedicine in its purest form (patient care delivered over the phone) has existed for decades. Telehealth encompasses a range of communications technologies that support virtual care — including live video, remote patient monitoring, mobile health apps, and store-and-forward platforms. All these solutions have been around for years, but adoption rates were rising slowly until COVID-19 came along and forced the industry’s hand.
Now, 85 percent of physicians are having video or phone appointments, according to a Sermo survey of more than 1,300 doctors. This sudden shift to virtual care began out of necessity, but doctors are discovering that they like telehealth. Sixty-eight percent of physicians believe the trend will stick around post-coronavirus and 77 percent support that shift.
Patients like the convenience of telehealth, too — 59 percent of consumers say they’re more likely to do virtual visits now than in the past, according to a recent survey by Black Book Market Research, and one-third of patients would leave their current doctor for one offering virtual visits.
With a multichannel telehealth platform like TigerConnect Patient Engagement, providers can offer video or voice visits using the same platform they use for clinical communications. They can also enhance patient communication with text messaging.
Seventy percent of patients are more likely to choose doctors that send text reminders about follow-up care, according to the Accenture 2019 Digital Health Consumer Survey. Only 57 percent felt that way in 2016.
Many providers use reminder apps to text patients about upcoming appointments, but these apps typically use unsecured, consumer-based messaging channels such as SMS, which are not HIPAA-approved for patient communication. Providers can’t include any identifiable information in their messages, and patients can’t respond. If someone needs to reschedule an appointment or ask a question, they have to call the doctor’s office.
When providers use secure clinical communications tools to text patients, they can share relevant, personalized content and even initiate two-way conversations. The patient receives a text message with a link to click, which reroutes them to the secure messaging platform where they can communicate with their healthcare provider. So if they need to change an appointment, ask how to prepare for a procedure, or ask follow-up questions after an appointment, they can do so without playing phone tag with their physicians.
Doctors don’t mean to overwhelm patients, but they often need to communicate an overwhelming amount of information in a short period of time. Whether they’re explaining how to manage a disease, how to prevent disease, or how to recover from an injury or illness, there’s a lot they need to say, even though sick patients might not be prepared to hear it all.
With a remote health solution, clinicians can follow up with patients once they’re back home and have had time to digest the information from their providers. With a simple text message or video call, clinicians can confirm that patients and their families have all the information they need, share additional information, and answer any questions.
Physicians can use the same virtual communication solutions to provide chronically ill patients with ongoing disease management education and support. For example, a primary care provider’s office could send a monthly text message to all heart disease patients with links to helpful articles or videos, and then connect diabetic patients to nutritionists and other internal resources via video calls.
Remote patient monitoring leverages mobile technology to gather data from a patient in one location and transmit it to a clinician in another location. This virtual patient care trend started slowly, but adoption rates have increased dramatically over the past couple of years, largely due to new Medicare reimbursement rules that make the service more profitable and convenient for physicians.
By last fall, 88 percent of healthcare providers were implementing or investigating remote patient monitoring, according to Spyglass Consulting. Those numbers are only going up this year due to COVID-19, as hospitals and doctors’ offices look for ways to closely monitor sick and high-risk patients while they shelter in place.
With remote patient monitoring, doctors and patients are in constant communication — if only via the data. Physicians can keep an eye on the numbers and spot troubling health patterns before they become major problems, and patients get the peace of mind of knowing someone is watching out for them. Most remote patient monitoring platforms also include doctor-patient communication features.
When patients post online reviews of their healthcare providers, they rarely complain about the quality of care or even bedside manner. They complain about customer service and the need to improve patient communication.
According to a Vanguard Communications study of 35,000 online physician reviews, most people think highly of their physicians — 61 percent of patients give their doctors five-star reviews, while only 23 percent give one star. Among the negative reviews, only 4 percent of complaints are related to medical care; the other 96 percent are focused on:
A robust communications platform can help address the majority of these complaints. Patient communication becomes multichannel, streamlined, and in some cases, automated. This frees up clinical staff time so they can respond more quickly to patients that require a call-back and spend more time with patients during visits. Clinicians use the same technology to communicate with each other, collaborate more closely, and deliver better patient care more efficiently, which means shorter wait times.
These are just some of the ways that clinical communication and collaboration solutions can improve patient communication and patient care. To learn more, download TigerConnect’s ebook, “Patient Communication: Engage Patients Through Video, Voice & Text” below.
Learn How Patient Communication Transforms Healthcare