Interviews with Dr. Douglas Ashinsky, Warren Internal Medicine and Dr. Daphne Bascom, Cerner
The patient-physician relationship is a key factor in improving the quality of care. The emphasis on patient engagement in the health care industry has made it clear that patients play a bigger role than ever in their own health. As a caregiver, it’s easy to get distracted with daily tasks and busy schedules, but it’s important to make sure patients know they come first.
“The patient-physician relationship is based on a trusted collaborative partnership with open lines of communication,” said Dr. Daphne Bascom, VP and CMO for Cerner. “It’s shifted from a paternalistic relationship – I’m going to tell you what to do to get better – to a partnership between patient and physician on how to work together to improve the health of the patient.”
A balancing act
As a caregiver, it’s a learned skill to treat the computer as the third person in the room. It’s important for physicians to balance their attention between the most important thing in the room, the patient, while utilizing the electronic health record (EHR) to provide value to all parties.
“There is nothing in the world that compares to looking the patient directly in their eyes and talking to them,” said Dr. Douglas Ashinsky of Warren Internal Medicine. “Patient engagement is not simply what the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) or the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) wants. Instead, it’s the act of the physician and patient actually engaging.”
“One key value to having the EHR in the room with the patient is the physician knows exactly why the patient is there and all the important patient data is available during the visit,” said Dr. Bascom. “More importantly, when the patient walks out the door, they leave with a detailed summary of the visit and a plan of care. This makes it easier for the patient to engage with their physician and understand what they’re supposed to do next.”
Information and transparency are keys to empowering patients to be proactive and knowledgeable about their health, therefore strengthening the patient-physician relationship. The better physicians communicate, the more meaningful the questions will be from patients when they do call.
“In order for me to take care of my patients correctly, we all have to be connected,” said Dr. Ashinsky. “Even on vacation, I make sure I’m available through my cell phone. I do my best to instruct the patient on what an emergency is and what it is not. If the patient has a question or problem, they need to call or come in. You have to figure out the best of both worlds.”
Patients can access their personal health record through their physician’s patient portal. This is another up-and-coming opportunity for patients to have access to their health information, interact with their care team and follow along with their own care.
“The patient portal can help patients find general information, request prescription refills, and communicate with their physician.” said Dr. Bascom. “Part of that engagement and collaboration with the team is making sure we’re all working from the same understanding of what the care plan is.”
The future of patient engagement
“We need to start moving away from calling it ‘patient engagement’ and start calling it ‘care team engagement,” said Dr. Bascom. “Everyone on that team has to be engaged at the same level to understand the goals of both the patient and the care team.”
“I think the patient portal concept will shape how we evolve patient engagement. The majority of the population has a smartphone. As physicians, we need to meet patients at the point of engagement they want, which may be a modified version of the portal concept through a mobile app, for example. But I think we are just beginning to see what the portal of the next decade can look like.”