Jessie Gruman, President of the Center for Advancing Health made an interesting comment in her keynote at the Connecting Healthcare + Social Media Conference last week. She noted that healthcare tends to be a last resort for patients, and by the time a patient does reach out to a provider, she wants specific, not general information. Her organization’s focus is to increase people’s engagement and involvement in their care, so she knows of what she speaks.
The last resort. This can’t be a good thing. Of course, physicians are highly skilled problem solvers and if a patient presents with an issue, who is better qualified to make a professional judgment than a physician? Gruman’s comment, however, articulates a perception of primary care that’s prevalent; primary care is episodic, focused on a specific issue and transaction.
Healthcare, and primary care in particular, is moving to enhanced patient engagement for all the right reasons – patients involved in their health stay healthier. The next phases in Meaningful Use mandate a documented level of patient engagement and even self-management of their care. But people don’t become engaged in transactions. They become engaged because of a valuable relationship, one that anticipates problems before they become serious and helps them focus on prevention. It’s going to require a shift in our attitude towards patient relationships to enable this level of engagement – of relationship – that can alter outcomes. More than legislation, it will take a new approach to practice business models and communication technology.
Creating a business and practice model that enables physicians to better communicate and engage their patients is what Hello Health is all about. When physicians can and are able to build better relationships with their patients, the practice will be the first call, not the last resort.