The Patient Success Equation, Part 1: The Problem With Physicians Not Participating

Patient success is a two-part equation: one part patient, one part physician. The problem occurs when one half of the equation doesn’t participate. To realize the full potential of patient success, both the physician and the patient have to be active participants. While patients have a responsibility for taking charge of their own health, as physicians it’s our job to provide the tools for them to do so.

When physicians are not able to participate, either due to time or resource constraints, in the patient success equation, patients aren’t fully equipped to create the best possible health outcomes for themselves.

A Knowledge Gap

It’s our job, as the physician, to ensure that our patients are informed. We have the knowledge they need to make informed decisions about their health. When we’re not actively participating, there is a knowledge gap.

Patient literacy is a problem. Approximately half of the U.S. adult population has limited health literacy, which is associated with poor health outcomes. It’s our responsibility to educate our patients and close the knowledge gap. We need to be educating our patients both inside and outside of our office.

When patients are adequately informed and well-educated, they’re able to make better health choices, which result in positive health outcomes.

As physicians, we must be actively engaged and ensure our patients aren’t going without adequate care due to scheduling delays and issues.

Delayed Care

Part of ensuring our patients experience success with their health outcomes is ensuring they have quick access to care. This requires proactiveness on our part. When patients have to wait several weeks for an appointment, there’s a greater chance of them not following through. We’ve found that appointments scheduled greater than 15 days in the future have a higher cancellation rate.

That means patients are going without important health care. As physicians, we must be actively engaged and ensure our patients aren’t going without adequate care due to scheduling delays and issues.

Lack of Access to Specialist Care

Patient success may also require seeking care from a medical specialist. As the physician, if we’re proactive in helping our patients achieve success with their healthcare, that means addressing these needs and helping them find adequate care through a referred specialist.

When we’re not involved, patients not only may not be aware that there’s a need for seeking a specialist, but they may not have the knowledge to know where to look. It’s also important that we’re involved through the process and close the loop with the referring doctor. We need to ensure that we’re not just making sure the patient gets seen, but finding out what the doctor recommended, so we can help our patients follow through.

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Lack of Patient-Perceived Physician Empathy

Most of us went into medicine because of the patient interaction. However, due to financial and time constraints, we are often driven to complete patient interactions within 15 minutes or less. For some problems, these quick interactions work well. However, from the patient’s perspective, this can be very frustrating.

In fact, most of those practicing traditional medicine attribute the placebo effect of homeopathy to the fact that they on average will spend more time talking to the patient. Believe it or not, but communication is actually therapeutic.

Of course, this is not practical for the average overworked doctor. However, taking that extra minute to try to connect may prove more effective than that prescription you hand over. A wise physician once said that in order for you to heal the patient there are three factors that have to align: the physician has faith in the therapy you have prescribed, the patient also has faith in the therapy, and finally the patient faith in the doctor.

When our patients succeed, we succeed. Patient success is a win for everyone. As physicians, we must be active participants in order for our patients to experience their greatest health outcomes. Stay tuned next week to find out how our team, at Luma Health, is automating the solutions, to save you time and close the patient success gap.

 Find out how we’ve automated the solution for physicians in part 2. 

Tashfeen Ekram, MD, is a radiologist, self-taught coder, healthcare innovator and Co-Founder of Luma Health. Contact him on Twitter at @tashfeenekramMD.

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