Bridging The e-Patient Gap

20x26" e-Patient Policy Poster

Despite workload, doctors are not too busy for e‑Patients.

EPATIENT With a roster of 6–10 patients per hour, doctors have just a few minutes to assess a situation and develop a plan of action – be it referral, lab work or prescription. This leaves little time for patients to fully express their concerns. Halfway addressing needs to dismiss the patient within a 6-minute limit is not reassuring.

"Previous studies have shown that if patients are unable to express their concerns to a doctor they are not likely to follow the doctor's advice or return for further checkups," said Dr. Samuel Putnam, an internist in Boston and co-author of The Medical Interview.' [1]

Embracing e‑Patients does not require scaling back to just two patients per hour. Nor does it involve trading barbs over every diagnosis. And it certainly doesn't swing to the extreme of abdicating medical care to the patient.

Where Do I Find The Time?

Cooperating with e‑Patients may require physicians to phrase questions differently or pay more attention to patient history. Becoming more aware of support groups or asking which ones patients find particularly supportive elevates their esteem. Sharing potential side effects to new medications dignifies patients. Explaining why a particular medical approach is offered and what outcome is anticipated engenders trust. The e‑Patient is likely to look this information up after the visit; it is reassuring to discover affirmation of a treatment regimen.

Modifying phraseology to show genuine concern.

The key is modifying phraseology to show genuine concern. Even established clinicians can become better role models of compassion and care. [2] The details of medical evaluations are not part of a personal diary; they are meant to be shared with the patient. Trading lengthier dialog with every patient may not be feasible. If longer visits are not practical, physicians may need to schedule more frequent visits with e‑Patients. Can they be given email access for non-urgent questions? Is there an online support site? Some doctors are becoming actively involved in social media, not in leu of office visits or for public diagnosis, but to exchange news that is pertinent in their field of medicine.

It’s Worth The Extra Effort

With PPO health insurance, patients select their physicians. Subject to available openings, they may also suggest their primary HMO provider. With upwards of two thirds of patients searching health information online, physicians cannot ignore e‑Patients. [3] It's prudent to make moderate adjustments to accommodate them and then make them aware of the available support. The e‑Patient Anatomy poster is the new symbol of participatory medicine that patients will be seeking in 2012. More specific office guidelines can be spelled out on the e‑Patient Policy poster in waiting rooms.

Tags: e-caregivers, ehealth, entitled, epatients, ipatients, mhealth, support

  1. Major Medical Mystery: Why People Avoid Doctors.
  2. Can Better Bedside Manner Be Taught?.
  3. Client Infographic: The Empowered e‑Patient. Pew Internet and American Life Project, 2009, 2010.
  4. How to handle sticky social media situations.