Primary Care is A Conversation, Not A Lecture

I connected the dots between two experiences this week, and the headline of this post struck me as a big change. The first was a review of a new book by a Boston-based health care consultant, Nancy Finn, titled e-Patients Live Longer: The Complete Guide to Managing Health Care Using Technology, and it got me thinking about how the changing involvement of the consumer – your patients – is reshaping primary care.

The second was a conversation with Shahid Shah at the Health 2.0 Spring Fling last week, about how we’re helping physicians make more money in these challenging times for practice by helping them engage their patients more. The whole conference seemed to be focused on the intersection of “formal” and consumer-powered health care, and there were plenty of interesting, provocative presentations.

The insight common to both was this: primary care has been a lot like a lecture in years past, a one-way monologue from someone in the know to a group of people with a need for what that person knows. Doctors assess their patients and provide wise counsel and advice about how to fix something while the patient receives the information, like a speaker at a conference.

But today our patient/consumers want a conversation. They are acquiring the tools and interest to participate in a dialog with us, and to earn their loyalty we need to be willing to do so. Doctors are still the experts, of course, but sometimes the most effective way to engage a patient is through tools that enable two-way communication. Physicians still need to provide clear direction, but equally, they need to use new technologies to enable their patients to genuinely participate in their care. This is important for many reasons, not least of which that the in-person visit is often too brief for both parties. Social technologies offer a way to scale that dialog, in a way that is more efficient for doctors and more convenient for patients.

In traditional practice models, physicians simply don’t have the time to engage their patients through social channels. Even when the third phase of Meaningful Use kicks in, which requires greater patient self-management, it will be a struggle to find the time to engage patients. We get it. That’s why we didn’t just provide a range of communication tools along with an EHR in the Hello Health platform, we integrated a new business model that finds the time and revenue to make sense of engaging in a dialogue with patients.

Physicians have to be ready –and willing – to participate with patients in their care. Once patients realize they can do more than just sit there and listen, they will change their behavior. Smart physicians will realize what an opportunity this actually is.

About the Author
Steven Ferguson

Steven Ferguson is the Chief Operating Officer at Hello Health, the complete Cloud-Based EHR, Practice Management System and Patient Portal, that helps practices be more efficient and increase patient engagement.