“Patients and physicians alike are confused and disoriented by the new digital world, even while being empowered by the knowledge they can impart. These cutting edge technologies have the potential to dramatically improve a patient’s healthcare experience, but to get there, we first have to engage in some good old fashioned talk.” Kent Bottles Past Chief Medical Officer Iowa Health System
A while back I twisted my knee. I mean like my body turned one way and my knee another. Major ouch. So of course the first thing I did, when I was able to move, was go on-line and try to figure out what I did. I was amazed at the amount of specificity that was available to me as I read through various sites comparing symptoms, injuries, treatments and alternative treatments. At the end of the day however, there was nothing on line that said “if you do this, you can avoid seeing a doctor.”
I quickly realized, that whatever the “web” said I did, the injury was not going to resolve itself and I needed the expertise of a specialist. I called to make an appointment and was advised that I would need to go on line and complete some new patient forms; which I gladly did. When I went for appointment, I checked in at a computer that was very simple and user friendly. There was a sign beside the computer that said “if you are uncomfortable using computer, see person at counter to your right.” And there sat a wonderful receptionist waiting to show you how to use the computer. But her best quality was that she listened to the people asking for help. She allowed them to register their complaint, then showed then the ease of checking in.
My name was then called and I was shown to an exam room. There was a lap top in the room and an assistant asked me the typical questions, “how/when did you do this? On a scale of 1-10, 10 being horrible pain, what is pain level, etc.”
While keying in my answers to the laptop, eye contact was not made…..it was a transaction of information. But then, the person looked at me and said, “how do you feel right now?” Of course I wanted to be sarcastic and say “how do you think I feel?” But I restrained myself and took a deep breath and said, “OK.”
The physician came in and we talked. My x-rays were negative, use these crutches for a week, take some anti-inflammatory drugs, and so on. Then he said, “email me in a week and let me know how you are doing”. He gave me a card with an email address on it and I looked at it in amazement. Email how I am doing? WOW, that was a new one.
But a week later, I emailed that I was doing no better, the doctor emailed back that I needed MRI. The office emailed me about appointment choices for MRI, which I then made on line. Ultimately, I had a left knee surgery for a torn meniscus. There was just the right balances between “people interaction” and “technology interaction”.
And that is what we probably need to strive for, balance. When technology can be leveraged to obtain necessary data and information, then use technology. When face to face discussions are needed, then of course, have a meaningful conversation.
Figuring out the right balance for your practice is the challenge. But once achieved, real productivity can be achieved.