Improving Patient Communication to Improve Outcomes

In healthcare, communication between the caregiver and the patient is essential to high-quality outcomes and the improved satisfaction of both the provider and the patient.  Writing for the Oschner Journal, Fong and Longnecker explain that, “effective doctor-patient communication is a central clinical function in building a therapeutic doctor-patient relationship, which is the heart and art of medicine. This is important in the delivery of high-quality healthcare.” (Fong & Longnecker)

However, as the American Hospital Association reminds us, “today's healthcare environment makes good communication among patients, families, and caregivers harder and harder to achieve. Hospital stays are shorter, medical care is more technologically complex, resources are constrained, and there is a growing need for patients and families to have more information about, and involvement in, care decisions.” (AHA) 

IT Use Enhances Communication between Caregiver and Patient

The use of IT has significantly enhanced achievement of that communication level. Patient portals are widely used, telehealth technologies are supporting communication between provider and patient in the patient’s home and/or in local community care centers, and mobile health technologies make access to patient information available anytime and anywhere. 

The importance of high-quality communication with patients is widely evident in the HIMSS EHR Value Collection, where a “library” of value insights reflect the experiences of hospitals, health systems and providers in all venues of care delivery.  Alpenglow Medical, for example, reported that the “EHR is increasing patient satisfaction by allowing the doctor to sit and listen and not rush the visit.”

In the UK, the Milton Keynes Hospital NHS Foundation Trust has found that the electronic health record “increased clinician time availability for patients.”

HIMSS EHR Value Collection

The collection offers many other comments from hospitals and other care delivery organizations about how their EHR has enhanced communication between the provider and patient. Among them:

  • Bon Secours St. Mary’s Hospital in Richmond, Va., uses telehealth to help improve communication with patients.  They found that 91% of their patients were very satisfied with the overall care they received via telehealth, and 55% of their patients reported increased satisfaction with their doctor and hospital.
  • Kaiser Permanente, using a patient portal, found that their patients are less intimidated and more confident in their medical care; the portal gives them access to the people and information they need to better control their health.  For those patients with chronic conditions, the patient portal helped them to make more-informed decisions about their health.
  • The Madison Area Health Center in Madison, Maine, uses its EHR to improve patient care by allowing patients access to their personal health information and to connect with their medical team. The EHR helps patients with chronic disease to play a greater role in managing their disease.
  • Shriner’s Hospitals for Children in Tampa, Fla., uses telehealth to improve communication with patients.  With less disruption in their lives, patients can remotely consult with specialists.  For children and their families, this is particularly important.
  • Rady Children’s Hospital San Diego also uses telehealth to communicate with children with terminal conditions and their families.  At home, the children and their moms and dads are more comfortable and are able to have a higher quality of life than they might in an institutional setting.
  • Providence Health & Services, Renton, Wash., finds that the “click of a mouse” saves time and allows new interactions between patients and providers, to the benefit of both.
  • At the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle, Wash., patient portals support two particularly vulnerable populations.  Homeless persons are able to communicate with their provider through their public library computers, and elderly patients are encouraged to better engage with their providers from home.  In both instances, communications with these populations is improved through the technology that the EHR offers.
  • In Rochester, NY, Parkinson’s disease patients at the University of Rochester Medical Center use teleneurology to see their healthcare providers in their homes.  This enables them to live more independent lives and to have convenient access to the medical follow-up that they need.

The electronic health record with its integrated technologies and applications has become a core part of the healthcare infrastructure to enhance communication with patients, to advance patient education and satisfaction, and to streamline clinical interactions such as prescribing and ordering tests.  It is also improving physician and caregiver effectiveness and satisfaction.  It offers significant value in furthering the provider/patient relationship.

Find out more about the HIMSS Health IT Value Suite and how to build and measure your value strategy.