Tomorrow’s Physicians Take on Patient-Centric Care

Dr. Anne Meneghetti
Dr. Anne Meneghetti

Guest post by Dr. Anne Meneghetti of Epocrates.

All change faces resistance, and the adoption of technology in healthcare is no different. Advocates speak of the advantages to quicker information access, paperless offices and speed of care. On the other side of the spectrum, technology laggards point to the physical and theoretical technology barriers during a patient exam, a perceived loss of nuance in capturing data and data security issues.

Today’s medical students are debunking the debating by adopting a modern medical approach that merges technology and a focus on patients. Coined as “patient-centric care,” future physicians are encouraging patients to be engaged in their care and live a healthy lifestyle with the aid of technology.

The Epocrates 8Th Annual Future Physicians of America Survey revealed that 72 percent of medical students surveyed would most likely practice patient-centered care.

This fresh and engaging method of healthcare delivery, known as patient-centered care, revolves around three key approaches: shared decision-making, a care-team approach and adherence support.

Shared decision-making involves creating a more active discussion between clinicians and patients. This not only develops a mutual sense of trust and information sharing, but also leads to better outcomes. If a patient feels that the physician is speaking with him versus at him then they will be more willing to share information and widen the gateway of communication. Furthermore, the impression of physicians being the sole and final authority has been challenged by the pervasive availability of health information (accurate or not) on the Internet.

Patients are self-diagnosing and self-treating, which can be seen as a threat to physicians’ authority. Rather, future physicians are using patients’ appetite for information to get them more invested in their care plan. They are “prescribing apps,” recommending vetted health sites and using technology to communicate with their patients (e.g., text messaging, email, patient portals). As a result, the patient feels his physician is a partner in health and feels support beyond the exam room. Patients are also feeling reassured by physicians’ use of technology as a means to get the most current medical information and to connect with their care team.

Technology is also the driver behind a collaborative care team approach among primary and specialty physicians, nurses, caregivers, etc. By keeping all care team members apprised of a patients’ medical history, test results, check-ups and so on, it is helps avoid duplicate tests, adverse drug events, and provides a more holistic view of the patient’s treatment plan. Historically, we relied on fax machines, mailed reports, or patient memory. Enter the health tech boom, and we can now access records or ping a care team member via a secure messaging platform. This could potentially ensure more accurate and efficient diagnoses and treatment plans.

With a comprehensive treatment plan in place, the onus is then on the patient to adhere. Medical students are realistic about extending moments of care beyond the office visit and see the popularity of smartphones, health apps and patient portals as a supportive channel. This year’s Future Physicians of America Survey showed 82 percent of current medical students would recommend health apps to future patients. In terms of current physicians, 40 percent have recommended health apps to their patients. The primary types of apps being recommended are to assist patients with weight loss (e.g., food tracking, exercise programs), coping with chronic conditions (support groups) and to provide further assistance in medication adherence.

Medical students are leading the patient-centric movement, since their training is technology-centric, whereas current doctors have worked over time to bring technology into their practice. A reported 44 percent of the surveyed medical students would consider themselves to be “digital omnivores,” a trend that we anticipate will continue to rise.

“Digital omnivores” use multiple platforms of digital technology – a tablet, smartphone and computer – routinely in the course of their day. Clinicians using multiple technology devices in a workday have become fairly common in the professional setting. Tablet and smartphone usage has consumed more than 40 percent of a clinician’s time on a device, according to the Epocrates 2013 Mobile Trends Survey and will only increase with the advancements of these mobile technologies and the software developed for it.

Medical students admitted that they are more likely to turn to technology for a medical answer than a colleague. They understand today’s patients are no different, so are assuming the responsibility of integrating technology into their practice and using it to support patient behavior change. Ultimately, technology in the exam room should serve documentation and education needs in a nearly invisible way allowing clinicians and patients to focus on healing.

It’s clear, for tomorrow’s physicians – patients and technology have converged for the better.

Prior to joining Epocrates, Anne served as the Vice President for Health Policy at Boston-based health plan Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts. She has extensive experience creating radio, print and electronic communications for healthcare professionals and consumers.Anne obtained her M.D. from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School before completing an Internal Medicine internship and residency at the University of Michigan Medical Center. She maintains board certifications in Internal Medicine, Pulmonary Medicine and Critical Care.

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