Providing medical care can be a bit like walking a tightrope: on one hand, you need to do everything in your power to make patients feel comfortable, safe, and trusting. But on the other hand, treating their maladies effectively can often require uncomfortable clinic visits and exams. A truly effective physician must strike a balance between being friendly and caring to patients and providing excellent, thorough care. They must find ways to engage patients in managing their own care and feeling empowered, while still maintaining a professional demeanor and level of efficiency. Boosting patient engagement can be a tremendous builder of trust and rapport, as well as a promoter of good health, and opportunities for enhanced engagement are in high demand from patients everywhere.
Patient engagement via mHealth: video chat, voice call and text chat
That’s right: patient engagement is a medical tool, much like a stethoscope or a sphygmomanometer, but instead of feeling ambivalent or, worse, nervous about it, patients want it. They want the ability to access their health caregiver through their smartphone, they want the ease of contact without the sometimes uneasy feelings that accompany clinic visits. But most of all, they want to feel in control. Patient engagement takes many forms, of course. The old-fashioned kind requires time-consuming face-to-face consultations and phone calls. The fresh, more tech-savvy version involves built-in connectivity, enabling physicians to access their patients via text and video chat. Patients enjoy having the ability to get in touch with their physician at the drop of a hat. They enjoy being able to make their own appointments for e-consultations—virtual text or video chat appointments with their doctor—and they appreciate receiving text message notifications for these appointments. In short, high patient engagement keeps patients focused on their health by making healthcare more visible in their lives, and more integrated with the technology they already know and enjoy using.
It all sounds good, but what about face-to-face interaction? What about the importance of building patient trust through one-on-one meetings and great bedside manner? Studies have shown that patients find a personal video chat session with their physician just as satisfying as a clinical visit, with the added advantage of not having to leave their home. They enjoy being able to have consultations in a comfortable, familiar setting, and they appreciate the flexibility it affords them.
Of course, virtual meetings like these will never completely replace in-office exams and procedures, but think about it: so much of providing good health care is looking at charts, managing records, and other administrative jobs. What if patient health records could be managed online through a program that also had virtual meeting capabilities? What if doctors and patients could review the PHR and medical histories together while talking about treatment plans and the like? If doctors and patients could have these kinds of meetings virtually, prior to an in-office exam or procedure, the time savings would be incredible. Patients would appreciate not having to spend lots of time in the waiting room, and medical practices would save countless hours in paid time for physicians and staff.
Telemedicine - without leaving home: consultations in a comfortable, familiar setting
More and more, patients want the ability to receive health care on what feels like their own terms—from the comfort of their own home, without the need to travel and wait for an exam. As physicians, you understand the importance of patients feeling positive about their own health care. Good patient morale can be tremendously beneficial to health, and patient engagement like this provides an easy opportunity to boost that morale by empowering patients with the ability to manage their own health.