Guest post by Dr. Mary C. Burke, an attending physician in emergency medicine at Milford Regional Medical Center in Milford, MA.
From a health IT perspective, patient communication is broken. With more than 20 years of experience as an emergency physician, this point was driven home to me while using physical therapy to recover from a knee injury. The more I looked at information from my physical therapist and tried to remember the instructions he provided, the more I realized that this part of communication in healthcare is flawed.
I couldn’t reproduce my physical therapy exercises, and I quickly became a frustrated patient. I might have just thrown my hands up and hoped to figure it out eventually, but I wanted to be up and around on my two feet soon following a knee injury. Sound familiar? Apparently forgetting instructions and other information is pretty common and is playing out frequently in multiple scenarios. As I looked into information about understanding and remembering provider instructions, I quickly learned that this was not just my own personal experience.
Why not make as much of this information available for the patient in a very consumable and crystal clear medium? As I sought a more effective way to capture my exercises so that I could re-watch them, I realized as a patient we are the star of our own show, and at a minimum we can improve patient communication and information retention with video. I tested this with my physical therapist, Mike Roberts of Central Massachusetts Physical Therapy, and we developed a true partnership.
Through the use of video now made possible by HIPAA-compliant Postwire, I was able to continue recovering from my injury – and without a doubt faster than I would have with the paper handouts I had been receiving previously. And my physical therapist also became a better clinician by making the videos and improving the clarity of his instructions each time I visited. I could reference the videos at home or at the gym to perform these exercises properly.
Being able to watch myself do the exercises on my computer or phone and listen to Mike’s voice at the same time worked wonders for my ability to replicate what I should be doing to rehab, and I still practice many of these same exercises years later. And I know that Mike is now using video with a significant number of his patients and has found it to be an invaluable tool for patient communication and care.
Instant feedback for everyone makes communication crystal clear instead of a muddled memory. Video is a win-win for both providers and patients.
My amazing, very personal experience with using video as a patient changed my entire professional perspective on communication in healthcare. In my role, I never really thought of using video with my patients before my own injury.
The use of video can make everyone focus more on communication skills in the healthcare environment – both the giving and receiving of information. This exemplifies a true partnership in recovery.
Think of how many ways personal patient video can be used. There is a use case across multiple clinical areas for patients in both the inpatient and outpatient settings:
- Physical therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Speech therapy
- Chronic disease management
- Diabetes teaching
- Heart failure teaching
- Informed decision making discussions
- End of life discussions
- Instructions from clinical psychologists
- After care instructions from a hospital stay
- Instructions from an emergency department visit
- Asthma inhaler instructions
- Medication instructions
- Wound care instructions
- Cancer treatment choices
As you can see, the list is infinite for patients and clinicians. I believe as the adoption of handheld smart devices like iPhones and iPads increases, video is going to advance the way healthcare providers and patients communicate and improve the quality of healthcare overall.
Dr. Mary C. Burke, M.D., M.H.A., F.A.C.E.P., is an attending physician in emergency medicine at Milford Regional Medical Center in Milford, MA. She is also a clinical associate professor of Emergency Medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, MA.