Consumer use of social media in healthcare

Social media is becoming a bigger part of the collection of health information, but it varies by health condition and treatment options how patients use social channels during their online search. The more serious the condition, the more time patients spend online researching with social media tools as part of the equation.

This is one of the findings of a recent qualitative research project designed and carried out by Rich Meyer, an experienced DTC marketer working in the pharma industry for over 10 years now. The study showed other interesting trends about how consumers are using social media for seeking healthcare information and how it influences their decisions as well.

Here are the key findings of the research:

  • Seeking health information online is often triggered by health concerns of a patient or family member. People usually do not search for health-related information proactively. The search is initiated after experiencing the symptoms.
  • There is not one online source that is the most popular when it comes to searching for health info. There is no ultimate source. People in older age groups usually start with search engines, and often mention being overwhelmed by the sheer volume of health-related information online. One of the main problems for internet users is complexity, the often feel frustrated when not finding answers to more simple questions.
  • While some people use social media sites during their search, they rarely trust the accuracy of posts. The main reason to go to social media sources is to read about others’ experiences with the same health concerns. This is trend is more dominant with more serious conditions.
  • People are concerned about personal and data privacy, so they are usually not comfortable posting their medical information on social media sites. This was even a bigger of a concern for older demographics.
  • Before making a healthcare-related decision, women usually do more research online and go to a lot more websites than men.
  • While physicians are still a very important source of medical information, the need for a more cooperative approach to healthcare is obvious. Participants stated that they would like to discuss different options with their doctors.
  • Another interesting and possibly worrying aspect of the study is that during focus groups participants didn’t mention pharma company websites as a health-related online source at all. This might be due to the fact that they questioned the trustworthiness of pharma companies all together.

(Source: Pharmaphorum.com)

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Why Dive Into Developing Mobile Health Apps?

While digital marketing solutions and social media projects became the center of attention in pharmaceutical communication recently, it is also important to notice the growing popularity of everything mobile. Below is a list of reasons why pharma companies should invest considerable time and energy into developing effective, creative health-related mobile applications.

The mobile trend is here to stay: Based on a recent study by Comp TIA, half of all physicians use smartphones for professional purposes and the use of mobile applications is steadily growing as well. According to another study, mobile technologies can be utilized especially in healthcare. There are many factors that influence mobile adoption on different markets. These factors include “consumer adoption, clinical adoption, evidence of efficacy, costs of deployment, and regulatory climate.”

High demand for healthcare and drug-related information online: Patients are looking to find valuable information about different treatment options, drugs and medical conditions online. According to a recent survey looking for health-related info online is the third most common activity of internet users. Maybe the biggest issue when it comes to treatments is medication adherence, which can be managed with easy-to-use, always available mobile devices in a very cost-effective way.

Mobile devices during clinical trials: A recent article emphasized the role mobile apps could play in the entire process of clinical trials. “The recruitment of patients, transmission of clinical trial records, and the reporting of adverse events in a prompt and accurate manner” can be all managed with creatively developed mobile applications.

Mobile apps can help communicate with HCPs more effectively: Tight budgets, digital solutions and the demand for time-efficacy resulted in big number of layoffs in the pharma industry with decreasing number of sales reps conducting in-person visits with physicians. “The significant decline of sales force presence has created an educational void for prescribers.” The need for a more effective educational method and better understanding between pharma and healthcare professionals could be managed with mobile apps created specifically for medical education and delivering prescriber information.

Information to bigger groups and institutions: With mobile applications it is easier to deliver a big amount of data to a wider audience in a manageable way. This is especially important when it comes to communicating with hospitals, healthcare organizations, patient or physician communities. Pharma can utilize this when providing information about products, treatments and different conditions.

(Source: The Digital Health Corner)

Advertising On Health Websites

Mayo Clinic’s recent decision to include paid advertisements on its website stirred up a heated debate. As the face of healthcare social media and effective patient education for a long time Mayo Clinic received a lot of criticism for its bold move to venture into the field of featuring ads next to important health-related issues.

I personally think in an economic climate like today’s no one can really argue with a financially smart decision if it is rightly done. Which means that in my opinion paid advertisements can have a place next to health information without taking away credibility and reliability. Unless they are placed poorly. And that is where Mayo Clinic made a mistake. Mark Schaefer, marketing consultant and author took to his blog to express his disbelief and disappointment about ads trying to sell children’s clothes next to an article about a condition during pregnancy that in most cases results in the death of the unborn child.

Here is a word I rarely use on my my blog: Stupid.  But I think it is an unavoidable description when an organization sells the soul of their brand for a few advertising dollars with a mindless strategy of advertising children’s clothes to women who have just lost their child.

I think the question is: was the placement of the ad intentional? I hardly think so. This is an organization that is involved in treating patients, conducting research, launching healthcare start-apps, using social media for better patient education and communication and operating a major platform for publishing reliable health-related content. I think by now they are aware of the sensitive nature of the different topics they are discussing.

I also think it is a case of not paying attention to detail and not making sure the content and the ads on the site are in sync. Placing ads can mean major funds for a website. Misplaced ads can mean angry and disappointed readers that have all the right to feel that way. And while a lot of times advertising agreements are a little loose when it comes to the content of the ads, a website specializing in healthcare content has to make sure to monitor and influence the ads appearing on the portal.

(Source: Businessgrow.com, Medcitynews.com)

Mobile Healthcare – An Infographic

We read a lot about how mobile technology is the future, we see fascinating numbers and statistics about how smartphones and tablets are becoming more popular than desktop computers and laptops. It is hard however to really put a finger on how these trends will change healthcare.

The infographic below – other than piling up evidence about the sheer force with which the mobile market is growing – shows how mobile solutions can influence healthcare in different ways. Here are the key findings in connection with mobile in healthcare:

  • Mobile health has the potential to change healthcare in a revolutionary way with making patients more engaged in their care and transforming the patient-provider relationship.
  • Main features of smartphones that could be used in healthcare: physician finder, applications to view claims, to fill our medical forms, and other apps to follow treatment plan and help adherence.
  • Revenues from remote patient monitoring services that use mobile networks will rise to 1.9 billion globally by 2014.
  • Users with wireless connections are more likely to monitor their health with the help of their cell phones.
  • People owning a smartphone are more likely to be an active content contributor related to healthcare, that means mobile technology boosts participation.
  • According to predictions by Juniper Research the number of downloaded health apps will reach 44 million by the end of the year, and by 2016 there will be 142 million downloaded health applications.

 

(Source: Healthworks Collective)

Digital Strategy In Seven Steps

In its newly launched digital handbook, PMLiVE.com included a seven-step guide to create a successful digital strategy for pharmaceutical companies put together by Ben Tilly, marketing channel manager at Sanofi. Even though these are only the basic steps for planning a complex digital approach and surely, many more details need to be worked out along the way, this guide can serve as a checklist for launching a creative digital campaign.

Here are the main steps Ben Tilly mentions as crucial ingredients of a successful digital strategy:

  1. Determine the key business objective before choosing the channels or key performance indicators.
  2. Know your target audience:  Who are they, what kind of behavioral patterns do they have?
  3. Differentiate you customer groups. Segmentation is key and so is choosing the right channel and appropriate messages for different audiences.
  4. Develop all key performance indicators that you want to measure later. This is a step to take only after getting to know your audience and deciding what channel to use.
  5. Measurement is crucial in every phase of creating and implementing your digital strategy.
  6. Channel integration should be done with careful consideration, multi-channel strategies also need to have a clear objective and a rather simplified approach.
  7. Engagement with sales representatives is one of the most important parts of putting together a digital strategy.  Reps have the insight about your customer that is more than valuable, it is the crucial information that a successful digital strategy can be based on.

Planning ahead, a clear idea of objectives and careful consideration of the audience’s characteristics when choosing channels and messages – these are the crucial components of building a digital marketing strategy in healthcare and pharma. But most importantly creating a digital strategy can’t be separated from other marketing activities. Efficient marketers can blend digital efforts into the company’s complex marketing approach.

(Source: PMLiVE.com)

Strategic Change, Value Innovation and Drimpy.com – Interview with Rob Halkes

Rob Halkes has been working as a consultant in healthcare and pharmaceutical marketing for 20 years. He gained experience in the industry focusing on strategic change, professional development and innovation in pharma. He is also part of the development team of the integrated healthcare platform, Drimpy. We asked him to share his insights on the changing environment of the pharmaceutical industry and healthcare.

You have been urging strategic change in the pharmaceutical industry. Why is this issue important and what kind of specific changes do you think pharma companies should consider?

Because of the current economic situation, the trend in healthcare will be “more care for less money”. For all governments in healthcare in Europe, it is easy to cut costs on pharmaceutical products. So we see an enormous pressure in a lot of countries, not only in the Western countries, but in the Eastern countries of Europe as well. We see a lot of pressure on cutting and reducing prices and on the replacement and substitution of premium and specialty products with generic pharmaceutical products. To the pharmaceutical companies it will mean that they are trying to sell their products in the context of a commodity trap. The commodity trap is an economic phrase that implicates that prices for premium products will be inflated by upcoming generics or cheaper products. If you go along with the trend to make cheaper products or to sell your products for cheaper prices, you will find yourself in a downward spiral. The pharmaceutical companies have no tradition in trying to innovate their marketing approach other than just creating new products, submitting those to the market and introducing those at a higher price. And now premium innovative products are being replaced by generics. So although you may have made or developed very good innovative pharmaceutical products, those will tend to be replaced by generic ones. The market of specialty products merges with the market for OTC or generic products. The only solution to escape the commodity trap is to innovate your marketing approach.

That can be done if you are willing and competent to make a strategic change towards helping the doctors to treat their patients better. Helping means a two-step process: not just helping doctors to prescribe your product, but helping doctors with your product to be able to help patients better. Then you can convince the prescribers that there is more to your product than just the product itself, that you are also actively supporting the doctors to innovate their caring for the patients to support them better.  This added value could be the reason for a higher price instead of going down with the commodity trap. This is difficult for pharmaceutical companies because for 20 years now they have been on the same business model of promoting new products for higher prices – that will come to an end now. That is only one issue of all difficulties that present themselves to pharmaceutical companies.

More strict regulation of promotion, lesser access to prescribers, upcoming generics and new stakeholders – these are other issues in the pharmaceutical industry that need to be mentioned. Governments, healthcare insurance companies, payers and patients are all new stakeholders that will come to the market with a clearer voice that they want better products for a better care. Hence, strategic change is necessary when it comes to changing market conditions and the way the conditions and caring for health are changing in different countries. Adapting to the conditions in specific countries will become relevant. The European affiliates will have to design their approach according to the local conditions of care.

You also developed a new business model called “value innovation” for the pharmaceutical industry. Could you describe this concept?

The approach of value innovation that I developed in the Netherlands has very clear results. We can show graphics of the outcome and how obvious the changes and results are. Through these results the model speaks for itself. The approach of value innovation is based on two principles:

The first is that as a pharma company you have to support your healthcare providers – doctors, specialists and pharmacists – to help their patients better by improving their way of caring for the patients. There are two concepts for this kind of care: integrated care and participatory care. That’s the first principle: innovate for your healthcare providers to help them improve the way in which they are performing their care for health. It might look as though you are mingling with their business. But in our experience healthcare providers mostly don’t have time to reflect on how they are providing care. When you help them with expertise, training and other services, you will be appreciated as someone who is caring for their interests and is acting on their behalf. When you do so with integrity, you will gain a different market position: a trusted one. It will reimburse you through the attention that your product is getting from them as being your partners in the business of caring for patients. For a lot of companies this will be a change in their selling approach. They have to learn how to submit and propose those services, because it differs much from just detailing.

The second principle is based on the necessity to differentiate between your targeted doctors: between those who will readily appreciate what you are doing, and those who will not. Most of the pharmaceutical companies already segment their priority doctors as to their individual potential for business. I propose to extend this to differentiate between those who have an innovative stance to healthcare development and those who don’t. In a changing landscape of healthcare, those who do want to improve their way of caring for patients will often collaborate with colleagues to approach innovation in care cooperatively. We see examples in health care groups, like “Zorggroepen” in the Netherlands, the Policlinics or medical centers in Germany or the GP consortia in the UK. We developed a segmentation procedure with which you can target the GP centers that are the most influential and have the most potential to cooperate with as a pharmaceutical company. The benefit for those that do want to work with you will be that patients and other stakeholders in care will notice that by working together in a co-creative way, it is possible to create better outcomes of care with less cost. It will lead to a higher satisfaction for patients and for a lower cost of patient per year in specific care programs, especially for chronic care. And if you can demonstrate, that you as a pharmaceutical company are helping the healthcare system in this direction, you will get a lot of attention that will lead to a position of preference that will help your business as well.

So actually the change will be from a purely product-oriented approach toward a patient- and healthcare-oriented position. And that is an orientation that healthcare providers and doctors will recognize as a change from selling toward helping.

Last October you showcased Drimpy.com at the Health 2.0 Europe conference. Could you tell us about this project and its aims?

This particular project is two years old now. We started it with the founder and owner of Drimpy, Arnold Breukhoven in the Netherlands. He had the idea of a health platform for integrated care in which patients could communicate better and have a better relationship through the online network with healthcare providers. We did see this not only as a necessity from the patients’ point of view but also from doctors’ perspective. Data and information from the patient is relevant for the doctor to act upon. Doctors often want to get information from a patient that the patient isn’t able to generate readily. He hasn’t been tracking his health parameters before the consult, doesn’t know precisely how often he has suffered from certain conditions, is not aware of the medication he actually uses, etc. With Drimpy the patient is able to collect and monitor his health parameters like blood pressure, sugar level, daily complaints, pain sensations, etc. and record his health-related information, medications, conditions, allergies, as well as store his health related documents (documents made by the patient himself, documents received from the lab or from the hospital, for example an x-rays). So a lot of data and information can be added and tracked on the platform that will help a doctor to diagnose the patient and implement a therapy in a much more effective and satisfactory way. Furthermore, the platform not only functions as a personal health record, but also as a communication device in which the patients and caregivers can communicate and interact privately.  Naturally, Drimpy also facilitates specific applications to support the patient and his/her loved ones with adequate and reliable information to help them understand and better cope with their conditions. It supports them in compliance-related activities as well. In doing so Drimpy works as an Ehealth platform, safely and reliably.

The site is firstly based on the principle of being an integrated care platform: activities from the different caregivers like doctors, pharmacists and hospitals come together to the patient’s benefit. Secondly the platform is patient-based. The site is designed from a participatory point of view. Anyone who registers on the platform can do this. Thirdly, and that is the most interesting feature, the patient has a private network that he/she can develop for people to be a part of his/her healthcare team, and to give them access to certain personal health information. The platform is set up like a private Facebook so the patient can select people that he wants to share information with and add those who want to help him in coping with his conditions. Drimpy.com is thus an integrated healthcare platform that is managed by the patient himself being in the position to select and keep the data that he wants to track and to invite and work with those caregivers who he wants to work with. Drimpy puts the patient in the position to set up his healthcare in a participatory way.

The digital ways of setting up a network like you just described in connection with Drimpy.com seem to work for patients and doctors. How do you see the pharmaceutical companies in this mix? How do they usually react to these digital solutions in your experience?

First of all, when it comes to Drimpy we see the site as a platform with which it is possible to organize the processes of care, to organize the caring for health itself. Making it clearer for the patient what the doctor is doing during the treatment is important because the patient has to work with the doctor to set up and complete his therapy. This will result in a better understanding between both parties about what they are doing, why they are doing it and how they will proceed. So it enlightens all the processes of care and makes telemonitoring and telecare possible. That will at least reduce the time spent on unnecessary face-to-face consults. It will enable them both to be efficient with face-to-face time. As a result the doctor will have more time to attend to difficult patients rather than to routinely work through consults that are actually not needed. The doctors and patients can reserve consults for those situations where they are necessary to optimize the therapy. This makes everything more rationalistic and more efficient. The point of course, is to have doctors and patients learn about how they can do this, and to customize the platform towards the specific needs of chronic conditions like diabetes or COPD, etc. The pharmaceutical companies can offer this facility to the doctors as a service from their side. With Drimpy they have a very distinguishing service to deliver to doctors. When they do, I’m sure doctors will be surprised and thankful to get help with implementing this version of telehealth in their practice, so they can help their patients with more satisfaction.

We talked about a lot of new trends: strategic change, new business models, new platforms and ways of talking to doctors from the pharmaceutical companies’ point of view. How do you see all these trends changing in the next year?

I presume that healthcare providers – doctors, hospitals, and pharmacists – will be quicker to adopt social media for the benefit of improving care and their relationship with patients. And pharmaceutical companies will be next. That is because healthcare providers – as we see in the Western countries – will understand that social media is relevant to their practice. Social media, integrated in healthcare processes will become more and more popular. In the near future one will not be able to work without them. Social media will help doctors to distinguish their position and help them in reaching out to their patients. They will first adopt social media in a web 1.0 and then 2.0 fashion, and then in a more integrated way as we have seen it with Drimpy. Drimpy itself facilitates healthcare providers to quickly integrate social media into their practices.

Pharmaceutical companies have to cross a threshold to change their business. That is a huge task for them, and to also look at the internal condition of the pharmaceutical companies. Because it is still very tricky for them – as they perceive it – to change in ways in which they are actually delivering services to doctors to help their patients better. Providing service in this way is a way of doing business that they are not accustomed to. They will be reluctant because they see that it will be a big change. As one of our pharmaceutical affiliates in the Netherlands said: “The hard thing is not so much to change towards the local conditions of the Dutch market, it is more difficult to get an approval to do so from the European headquarters.” It seems that changing the internal conditions of a pharmaceutical company is harder than to just change into a country-based marketing approach. But luckily we are in a position to work with pharmaceutical companies to show them how they might embark on this adventure and we can also learn from examples in other countries, like the UK or Germany. We can show them how they can present themselves in difficult situations and how they can move further towards solutions that would help their business as well.

You mentioned that pharmaceutical companies are reluctant to change their ways of doing business. In your experience what are the main obstacles that they mention when it comes to implementing a new model or new marketing solutions?

Well, the main obstacle is to adopt the vision that you can do your business in a different way than you have been doing until now. The pharmaceutical industry has one of the most traditional ways of doing business in the Western world. These companies have not changed in the sense of adapting their businesses according to the market conditions for the last 10, or maybe 15 years. And the pharma rep model in which they are promoting the product in detail conversations with doctors is the most sustainable business model that we have seen. They are so accustomed to it, that it is very hard to implement any change. So this is where we provide assistance. We have a concrete and specific way in which we can guide them step by step to change their ways of marketing in order to change in a manageable way instead of changing overnight in a troublesome way. Guidance is important to change, so that the development of the business doesn’t disrupt the outcome. The most difficult steps are to learn how you should do these things differently, to try to experiment with it carefully and to build up a new company and new sales force.

Change is a very difficult thing to do, not only for pharmaceutical companies but for doctors as well. Local market conditions will show them that past performances will not sustain their business for the future automatically. You have to implement the changes that are necessary in the framework of the system of healthcare and its renewal. When these changes emerge, pharmaceutical companies either get lost in the market or they adapt to these changing conditions, partner with healthcare providers and help them to provide better care in their countries. The ones that are daring to take the first step towards the changes are the ones that learn how to change and provide this specific support. This very competence will be strategic in the years to come. The first ones to move will have this advantage over their competition. If you wait until others have changed, you can only pick up what’s left over in the market. The first ones have the benefit of choice and of learning how to proceed. Going on with following a routine is easy, making the changes, learning how to do things differently is however one of the most difficult things for people to do.

(You can connect with Rob Halkes on Twitter.)

New Trends In The Hungarian Pharmaceutical Industry

As we pointed out in our previous blog post, 2012 has several changes in store for pharmaceutical companies. The healthcare reform defined by the Semmelweis and Széll Kálmán plans mean comprehensive structural transformation for the entire field.

Changes in the pharmaceutical representative system – the increasing importance of HR

The new decisions effect pharmaceutical representatives most negatively, because the return of investment on the personal meetings with physicians is considerably lower, mainly because of the „additional taxes” that the industry has to face in Hungary. According to the new rulings that came to effect in the middle of 2011 the turnover tax rose from 12% to 20% and pharmaceutical companies have to pay a yearly 10 Million HUF amount after every representative providing product information to physicians and pharmacists. According to the data of GYEMSZI (Institute of Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Quality and Organisation Development) in the beginning of 2011 there were 2 600 pharmaceutical representatives working in Hungary. This number dropped to 2 100 by the end of the year.

In 2012 the HR support of the remaining representatives will be even more important. According to the in-depth interviews carried out by Szinapszis Ltd. among pharmaceutical representatives it has to be a priority in the future to further involve representatives in sales strategies, so they get more comprehensive insights about the entire process. When using personal representative meetings and alternative sales tools simultaneously, the initiation and training of reps are critical, so they don’t look at the new tools as rivals, but as „sales partners” – while supporting the goals of the pharmaceutical management.

The new ePatient appears

The internet plays a key role when people, patients are seeking health-related information. The patient who is constantly searching the web for information appears in the healthcare system as a (more or less) conscious customer, and these new patients or e-patients need their doctors to participate in the communication process as well – creating new challenges for healthcare professionals, since old-fashioned one-way „communication” needs to be replaced by two-sided consultations.

More informed patients have higher expectations of the quality of healthcare, which results of these patients appearing more frequently in the private sector of the healthcare system.

This group of patients create a new target for pharmaceuticals since there is a new opportunity for directed non-expert communication – and not only in the field of OTC treatments.

Improving patient non-adherence – with legislative tools

A so-called patient-compliance program is part of the restricting initiatives proposed for pharmaceuticals in 2012, this program will be introduced first among patients with vascular problems and chronic lung conditions. According to the new initiative patients who want to pay the same amount for their medications they used to need to improve their health parameters with exercise, a healthy diet and lifestyle, and with regularly taking their medications – with losing weight and quitting smoking. Therefore in 2012 the role of patient-compliance programs assumed to become more emphasized.

But when it comes to the improvement of concordance about treatment options physicians are pessimistic: almost 75% of them don’t believe that the before mentioned policies and other initiatives aimed to strengthen the co-operation will result in a better doctor-patient collaboration in the following 2 years.

The more substantial role of pharmacists

Among other things the expansion of generics and the introduction of active ingredient-based prescriptions will further strengthen the role of pharmacists in the future, even more so in sales. Observing the efficiency of pharmacy sales is going to be a crucial, which means measurement of these areas (like mystery shopping) is going to be more significant in 2012.

(Katalin Kiss)

Alarming Level Of Non-Adherence

Recently I came across an alarming data on non-adherence: according to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) 25% of people above 50 are not taking their medications as prescribed if they take them at all.

Rather than worrying about the sky-rocketing healthcare costs and revenues we should ask, what makes patients stop a treatment and go against their physician’s advice. Is it only the price of the medication or is it a consequence of miscommunication? And if so, what is pharma doing to find a solution for whatever the problem might be?

  1. First of all the cause of non-complience has to be clear. To be able to act on it one needs to know the real nature of the problem. It might sound obvious, but surprisingly it is often overlooked. To determine the reason for non-adherence pharma and healthcare need feedback from patients. This of course requires communication and listening which to this day seem to be challenging.
  2. Communication: The reason behind stopping a treatment could be the lack of information about certain drugs. A lot of patients end up leaving the doctor’s office not entirely understanding what they have been told. With the constantly decreasing visit times accurate knowledge about a treatment is hard to provide. It has to be a crucial goal to get through to patients and make sure they have all the information they need to successfully complete or maintain a treatment.
  3. Financial solutions: Non-complience can also root from financial difficulties. Healthcare providers, pharma, insurance companies have to be able to work together to find a better system to help patients in need to pay for their medication. To imply that patients come first and not collaborating for a more sufficient way for them to finance their medications is simply misleading.
  4. Marketing tools for adherence: Marketers often focus on the great results and advantages of taking a certain drug. They often forget to emphasize that partial treatment is not a treatment. Through conventional marketing, social media platforms and educational portals pharma has great tools to inform patients and advertise adherence. These tools could be the base of comprehensive compliance campaigns.

(Source: World of DTC Marketing)

Technology In Healthcare – Addition Not Substitute

These days you can’t read enough about all the new high-tech inventions, breakthrough technologies and how they influence medicine. There are conferences, journals and giant companies built around the effort of introducing more effective it and tech solutions  for treating patients. Some of these efforts are truly groundbreaking and make practicing medicine more accurate and successful. But in the midst of it all, we can’t forget that technology should be an additional and not a substitutional tool.

Doctor visits are already receiving a lot of criticism that point out how little time is spent discussing a treatment plans, new medications and in general the patient’s complaints. In fact recent studies showed that physicians spend an average 49 seconds telling patients what they need to know about starting a new drug treatment. Only 35% of them address the possible adverse effects and 34% tell their patient exactly how long to take the medicine. Studies also point out that around half of the patients leave the doctor’s office not entirely understanding what their physician told them. Research also found that next to physician’s technical skills their ability to communicate effectively with patients is just as important for having a trusting relationship between doctors and patients.

So with these problems already existing in the examination rooms and doctors’ offices the last thing we need is to have a more distant and uncommunicative physician-patient relationship. Technology is not there to take the place of discussing problems and talking through treatment options. It is there to help doctors see and picture what they otherwise wouldn’t be able to see. New technologies are there to improve healthcare not to blindfold physicians and take center position away from patients.

This train of thought was also represented at TED Global Conference by Abraham Verghese MD while emphasizing the role of the human touch and paying closer attention to patients during their visits. You wouldn’t necessarily think of an advice like this at TED, usually a very tech-focused event. But the speech below proves that you can have both: technology and personal relationship between physicians and patients. Because technology in healthcare should be additional and not substitutional.

(Source: CNN.com)

Basic Attributes For Collaborative Healthcare

We can agree that more and more patients look for information themselves, or look into what their doctor says during a visit – but that doesn’t mean that trust between physician and patient is not important, that the empowered patient doesn’t need to be convinced that his/her doctor is competent and caring. Just the opposite. A great deal of trust needed in a time when achieving health becomes a shared goal and experience for doctors and patients.

But what is this trust based on? How do patients develop this trust for their physician, what do they take into consideration? According to a recent blog post on Mind The Gap the trust in doctors is based on three attributes:

  • The physician’s clinical skills
  • The physician’s communication skills
  • The patient is the number one concern of the doctor (without any other motives involved)

Because patients are usually not clinically trained (although more and more informed), they rely mostly on the second and third attributes when trusting their doctors. And that’s why it is crucial to spend enough time focusing on the dialogue with the patients, asking and answering questions and discussing any kind of concern they may have.

It is not surprising that communication is key for patients at this point. We are far gone from the idea that patients are not allowed to have an opinion, or any kind of knowledge about their condition or treatment options. Healthcare became more like a collaboration and as such people participating (doctors and patients) have to find a way to talk, communicate and discuss.

This is why it is alarming to see that the amount of time spent on a visit is rapidly decreasing. This is why it is frightening to know that even an important subject like taking a new drug is discussed in 49 short seconds. It is not enough to possess clinical skills and a great amount of information. Physicians also need to know how to pass on that information and earn their patients’ trust to achieve better outcomes and a well-operating collaborative healthcare.

(Source: Mind The Gap)