Creating patient advocates in the clinic is an evolving responsibility with many implications for all those concerned. The use of EHR brings together both clinic staff and patients together in many new ways. Whether it’s during the clinic visit or in some other appropriate form of interaction between staff and patient, the EHR continues to expand the conversation in the clinic because of the frequency of communication and disclosure of insights made available by health information in electronic form.
Accessibility, however, does not mean necessarily all the stakeholders in the patient experience have the same acumen for taking advantage of it.
From EHR to mHealth and beyond, the generation of and access to health data is increasing rapidly. For years in my conversations with some practice managers and physicians in the clinic, their primary concern when working with their EHR vendor was the vendor’s willingness to develop templates.
While one need look no further than the meaningful use criteria in the EHR Incentive Programs for the impetus to create structured data that the template does facilitate, there is still plenty to be said for free text. The challenge is that to be personal in the patient experience and translating that interaction into personalized information might just require stepping outside those checkboxes of the template.
We’ve already seen the heightened level of attention being paid to patient satisfaction. The free flow of information facilitated by social media platforms and even physician ratings websites allows for real-time feedback. It’s a far cry from the patient satisfaction structured data of the HCHAPS survey and certainly represents a form of “free text” from the patient’s point-of-view when assessing the clinic interaction. It’s likely not completed until several weeks after the physician-patient interaction, and it may be much more tied to emotions than the objective facts of the experience.
Perhaps there is a great teaching moment in this convergence of structured data and the free flow of digital health information. In this ever-evolving healthcare landscape and patient experience, looking for a solution as elusive as the Holy Grail may be the biggest mistake of all. In my experience, it has led to the vendor blame game in some clinics, but most of all this is about ongoing teaching moments in the clinic.
One way to summarize these learning experiences in the clinic might be to replace the three Rs of education (reading, writing, and arithmetic) with readiness, recognition, and responsiveness. These three components within the clinic not only represent words that all actually begin with same letter but also serve to define a new level of awareness among both clinic staff, patients and other caregivers:
Readiness to participate as appropriate in the dialogue of the patient experience;
Recognition that not only do members of clinic staff have different skills applicable the patient experience but so do patients and their circle of caregivers;
Responsiveness has as much to do with setting expectations among all of these stakeholders as it does with answering the phone or email message in a timely manner.
Unfortunately, this is not so much dialogue about the solution as it is about iterations and small wins along the journey of the healthcare experience. There are many stakeholders and relationships that play a role in this experience, and in this journey there are plenty of teaching moments to come.
A happy and health 4th of July to everyone!
Robert Green is the author of Community Healthcare: Finding a Common Ground with New Expectations in Healthcare. Through his physician client relationships, Bob has gained substantial insight regarding the daily challenges that medical professionals and their staffs face, such as regulatory issues, financial management, and clinical collaboration through the use of health IT. His process of making both interpersonal and purposeful connections within the organization results in improved employee performance and confidence and enhanced client experience.