A recent report from the Leapfrog Group found that patient experience scores at hospitals declined during the pandemic. This should be no surprise. Hospitals faced an incredible crucible during COVID-19, with many still experiencing high levels of stress in their systems. In addition to increasing demands on caregivers, the pandemic created a fundamental change in how patients are treated. The drive to telehealth was rapidly accelerated, transforming traditional in-person interactions between clinician and patient to a virtual format. This created an entirely new dimension to the patient-provider dynamic, essentially overnight.
As the industry begins to settle into what is, seemingly, the new normal, the administrative burdens that challenged clinicians before the pandemic are coming back into focus. As demonstrated by the Leapfrog Group, recovering from exhaustion and resuming administrative obligations are far from the only hurdles clinicians must overcome as they emerge from what are likely the hardest years of their careers. Healthcare providers will also be tasked with steadily improving patient satisfaction scores. The current state of affairs has many asking; how can providers effectively connect with patients in a way that will meet the moment?
Unifying patients and providers in the care process
Clinicians inherently want to take their patients’ perspectives into consideration when providing care. Personal aspects of medical care, such as the fears that come with a new diagnosis or frustrations following a treatment plan, are incredibly important to account for. The point of view and lived experience of patients can be expressed and represented in different ways, such as a first-person explanation of what it’s like to live with chronic fatigue or reflections on the everyday struggles of navigating a life-altering medical issue such as Parkinson’s disease.
Given the demands of modern practice, however, it is important that these perspectives are delivered to providers in a way that fits with existing workflows. Otherwise, we risk pushing providers beyond their limits because they simply can’t handle the information overload and long list of competing priorities they’re expected to manage. So, how can you add this valuable information to the clinical decision process without adding to providers’ already heavy burden?
The role of continuing medical education
Continuing medical education is the responsibility of all physicians and something they understand and appreciate as necessary. Recognizing the central role that patient voices play in educating providers about patient experiences, the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (AACME) has called for the incorporation of patient perspectives in continuing medical education (CME) programs. This is a simple yet impactful move to make patient perspectives core to practice long-term.
But what can be done to complement and extend ACCME’s efforts on continuing education? One solution is to integrate the points of view of patients into the clinical decision tools that clinicians use every day. Clinical decision support solutions are uniquely positioned to bring patient perspectives together with world-renowned expertise and medical evidence from a range of different specialties.
Integrating patient perspectives using technology
Integration of patient perspectives into clinical decision support platforms provides three clear advantages:
1. It keeps the patient’s voice and opinions at the forefront of clinicians’ minds within the existing workflow. With the heavy workload and growing administrative burdens already on clinicians, the ability to readily access the content makes it more likely that providers will read and use these resources.
2. It offers another dimension of care and impact on the patient experience that helps foster a true partnership between doctor and patient that can improve satisfaction. Discussing the impact of a disease or condition with the voice of a patient in mind, along with recommendations on treatment, may amplify the empathy in the doctor-patient interaction. It can serve as a critical reminder that the patient is a person, not just a case study or textbook example.
3. It supports CME, which is required of every provider but also helps foster patient-centric skills that are becoming increasingly important in modern practice. As mentioned, the ACCME has begun to include patient perspectives in its criteria for CME accreditation. Incorporating patient insights directly in clinical decision support tools makes it easy for providers to both earn ongoing learning credits as well as further refine their craft of caring for real people.
Speaking with physicians, I often hear about the combination of the human and scientific sides as what makes practicing medicine so rewarding. Decision support technologies can support that alignment by adding patient perspectives in the forefront amidst a flood of other responsibilities.
About Gregory Samios
Gregory Samios is the President and CEO of the Clinical Effectiveness business at Wolters Kluwer where he is leading efforts to reduce unwanted variability in care and measurably improve clinical effectiveness with industry-leading solutions. He earned a Master of Business Administration from Duke University Fuqua School of Business and a BS/MS degree in Engineering from the University of Rochester.