Many healthcare providers agree that communication is a critical instrument in caring for patients.
Without effective communication, a provider will be constrained in his or her ability to obtain details about the patient's medical history or convey a treatment plan.
A recent study found that effective doctor-patient communication led to better commitment to treatment plans by patients, improved follow ups and reduced malpractice suits. Research also shows that effective doctor-patient communication can improve a patient's health as significantly as certain drugs.
But here’s the kicker…
Despite the benefits, doctors get very little time to ‘talk’ to their patients due to the very structure of the healthcare system in the U.S.
“Healthcare providers have about 6-10 minutes per patient. Within that time they need to reach a diagnosis, create a treatment plan, document in the medical record, and get billing done. So, communication falls by the wayside. Patients don’t get the information they need,” says Eran Kabakov, co-founder and CEO of Docola.
Patients usually retain only 20% of what is told in the exam room. Under such circumstances, if a provider misses out on giving important information to the patient, the treatment process, and the medical outcome itself are undermined.
Why does this matter?
Patients, unable to get ‘relevant’ answers from their healthcare providers, are reaching out to online sources such as Google to obtain information. Many online sources are not reliable. When patients arrive at the doctor’s office precious time is spent on dispelling wrong “web-based self diagnosis”.
That's not all...
Many forums bombard a patient with tons of irrelevant and oftentimes misleading information, creating a dangerous situation of self-medication and other complications.
Healthcare is twenty percent procedure and eighty percent communication, feels Kabakov who has worked in the healthcare industry for about 25 years. “But we mostly focus on procedure,” he says.
He adds that physical therapy is generally very hands on and treatment relies heavily on education. “You have to share with the patient the do’s and don’ts. However, for a clinician today, day-to-day life no longer revolves around patient care. It is administration, billing, insurance verification, etc.”
This not only affects the quality of healthcare being provided to patients, but also wears off the magic of being a healthcare provider.
“You go to school to become a healthcare provider because you want to help people. You get the job, but then all you do is paperwork and administration, and it just wears you out,” says Kabakov.
In 2001, it was during one such moment of frustration that Kabakov started designing a web based care communication tool. With all the data he and his team collected they launched Docola in 2013. Docola plans to revolutionize how communication happens between providers and patients by solving the ‘lack-of-time’ issue.
How does Docola solve the communication problem?
Docola enables healthcare providers to share relevant knowledge with patients throughout the care continuum. Providers aggregate information quickly from any source (web, mobile devices, computers etc.), combine it into courses, prescribe to patients, and view participation records.
The concept behind the Docola platform is to not just act as a patient engagement tool, but to create a place where patient-provider conversations are based on relevant information from providers, companies, independent content providers, and even patients. The platform achieves this by offering an integrated marketplace, that offers videos, files, documents, handouts, apps services and more.
Doctors and healthcare providers can access this marketplace, curate the content and augment it with their own content. This supports their clinical pathways and business goals.
For instance, a ‘course’ could be ‘Understanding Diabetes’ with details on basic preventive measures that can forestall this disease or symptoms to look out for, etc. This one course can be prescribed many times over to any patient or care-giver in order to keep them engaged in their care and educated about the specifics of the treatment.
Providers can track when patients view a course, spend extra time on any particular element or are ready for the next appointment.
This saves tons of time for both the doctors and the patients.
Since patients are already aware of basic or routine information about the care plan and procedure, they are better equipped to ask their providers relevant questions pertaining to their specific needs. Providers on the other hand can also use that time to effectively focus on empathetic communication
Connecting Better with the Patient
An article by Dr John M. Travaline says another reason why doctors and patients need to be able to communicate effectively is because of patient's need for a ‘therapeutic’ relationship or a connection with his or her doctor.
In its 2001 report on health care quality, the United States Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommended that "clinicians and patients should communicate effectively and share information".
The report added that "patients should receive care whenever they need it and in many forms, not just face-to-face visits".
This is exactly what Docola is implementing.
While researching the design of the Docola platform, Kabakov noticed that clinicians were wasting a lot of time in sharing repetitive information with patients.
He figured that “if Docola will save a provider two minutes per patient, 20 times a day, we could free up four weeks worth of time per year” for the healthcare provider.
“With the increasing squeeze on per patient reimbursement, time has quickly become the most precious commodity. Our technology saves up to 20% of the time healthcare providers spend with each patient while at the same time enhances the relevance of information given to the patient,” says Kabakov.
He adds that for hospitals this can translate into gaining almost three quarter of a full-time employees’ time. That can have huge improvements in the productivity and functioning of hospitals as well as healthcare professionals.
When doctors can get more done with little effort and less time, their relationship with their patients can be personalized and meaningful – improving the overall effectiveness of healthcare.
By Peter Banerjea
Peter Banerjea is a marketing consultant at several companies including Docola. His work has appeared in Huffington Post, Fast Company, Lifehacker and several other top blogs.