Today, after 15 years, when I look back to my teachings from medical school, I realize that we were trained only partially to manage patients towards positive outcomes.
I personally believe that effective disease management needs intervention from 3 sides, whereas most of the medical schools emphasize on 2 sides only. First is intervention to manage disease or risk factors and second is to manage complications. However, the third important intervention which is largely left untouched in medical schools is intervention to manage patients’ information needs. And this according to me is secret sauce for success in clinical practice of today and tomorrow.
Many of my fellow colleagues will agree that now a days we are seeing a drastic change in patients’ behavior and expectations from their healthcare providers. This has largely been the result of information revolution fueled by advent of internet. Patients of today have access to and consume far more information on their heath conditions and treatment options than those a few years back. Be it a chronic condition or aesthetic or wellness need, patients’ need for information is equal and increasingly dense.
Is it a good trend? Well the answer depends on what information they consume and who provides it. It’s certainly not good if they form opinions based on anecdotal experiences or information which is not backed by scientific evidence as this can modify their behavior or compliance towards their disease and its management unfavorably. On the contrary, if their own doctors actively intervene to give them adequate information, it will have favorable impact on their overall treatment outcomes. While there can be skeptics and takers of this perspective, for the benefit of skeptics let me clarify that the article from here onwards is for the takers.
Let’s now address the challenges and possible solutions for doctors to indulge in information intervention for their patients. The first challenge is about sparing adequate “time” to offer information to patients in addition to routine disease management. If doctor can personally do that, it’s the most effective way. However, most of us may find it really difficult to spare time which then leaves us with 2 other options. We either employ a dedicated human resource (medic/para-medic) who will serve as a single-point of contact for all information needs of patients or leverage technology solutions to offer Virtual Information Assistance to patients. While the former option will have many limitations and cost implications the latter one is easy, cost-effective and far more scalable and can be offered in as simpler form as a website.
You can have a clinic website which serves as a Virtual Information Assistant to provide information to patients whenever they need and on any device they carry e.g. mobile, tablet or laptop. Think of your website as a repository of answers to patients’ frequently asked questions or common misconceptions they carry about their condition. Your website can anonymously mention stories of successful patient outcomes in your practice to encourage other patients handle their condition optimistically. Your website can provide instructions that highlight what all patients can do themselves to improve their outcomes and how do they do that e.g. lifestyle modification tips. It’s a good idea to keep patients updated with your talks or presentations in conferences/CMEs or publication snippets or even encourage patients to ask questions through your website and publish answers to them promptly. This can save lot of your time answering similar questions coming to you on various occasions from various patients. You or your clinic staff can simply instruct patients to refer to your website whenever they are in need of any information. A website so geared to provide information intervention to patients can complete your basket of clinical offerings in true sense.
AboutMyClinic.com™ is one such platform created for doctors by doctors who believe in information intervention as a medium to engage patients effectively in an internet era. Healthcare providers can use this platform to create a mobile-ready website of their clinic in few minutes. Every website features clinic and its services beautifully and acts as a Virtual Information Assistant for patients. Patients can access and read thousands of peer-reviewed and curated health information topics & FAQs, which come automatically configured with clinic’s website. A doctor can customize his own list of topics or add his own topics to enrich his repository further. Various built-in tools provide doctors an easy channel to engage, communicate and offer information intervention to their patients while they are in the clinic or at home or on the go.
The advent of internet has democratized access to information in many industries and healthcare is not an exception. Information intervention is becoming necessity for managing and engaging today’s patients effectively and therefore healthcare providers who want to build sustainable medical practice cannot ignore this phenomenon in making.