by Scott Zimmerman
New treatments or advice for preventing medical conditions are released to the public on a regular basis, yet 115 million Americans still don’t feel healthy. Perhaps this is because healthcare consumers aren’t fully taking advantage of what’s available to help them achieve and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Physicians are now using Engagement Communications to help patients better manage their health through web-based educational campaigns, text message and email reminders to do things such as refill prescriptions, monitor glucose, check blood pressure and schedule annual exams. As digital technology becomes increasingly ubiquitous in American culture, we should expect an increase of its use within our healthcare system. High-tech communication is one of the fastest and most cost-effective ways to reach large audiences, but in a very personalized manner.
One way that new media can benefit patients is seen in the anonymity it can provide. For instance, when a patient is asked how much alcohol they drink or if they smoke, do physicians always receive truthful answers? During clinical or hospital visits, some patients experience social anxiety when discussing their lifestyle choices. A patient may be hesitant to reveal private information out of fear of what their physician may think. Unfortunately, this lack of disclosure can lead to incorrect diagnoses and treatment plans, making the patient’s initial face-to-face visit dangerously counterproductive.
The digital age is providing the tools for the necessary solutions to this challenge. In research we conducted as part of our TeleVox Healthy World study titled, “Technology Beyond the Exam Room: How Digital Media is Helping Doctors Deliver the Highest Level of Care,” patients were asked how they felt about office visits in a virtual setting. An astounding 85 percent responded that digital communications, such as email, text messages and voicemails, were as helpful, if not more helpful, than in-person or phone conversations with their healthcare provider.
Over one-third (34 percent) of U.S. healthcare consumers said they would be more honest when talking about their medical needs through an automated call, email or text message than in person with a healthcare provider. Others revealed they would talk more frankly about nutritional habits (28 percent), their fitness regimen (27 percent) or personal vices (18 percent) through digital communication rather than in-person visits.
Patients want doctors who engage in their health and take the time to provide them with ongoing, thoughtful and personalized interactions that encourage and inspire them to embrace their treatment plans. By helping patients envision a healthier future—and supporting them along the way with interactive, high-tech communication—doctors are creating an experience for their patients that extends beyond the typical doctor visit. We’re seeing doctors use technology to become an active part of a patient’s daily life.
Originally published on BHM Healthcare Solutions, January 7, 2013