Digital Communications Quagmire

By Hillary Eames
Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Digital communications platforms allow for more patient engagement — when patients are able and willing to use them.

Tools that connect physicians or staff with patients prior to or between appointments, such as appointment reminders, arrival time alerts, wayfinding assistance, and digital pre-appointment assessments and forms, have the potential to help patients navigate their care more easily, directing them to the physician’s office on time and prepared for their examination.

Effective clinical communications systems allow patients and their family members, physicians, and other providers to securely and conveniently document and share patient care information whenever necessary.

Digital delivery platforms that incorporate care orchestration, telemetry and remote communications may be more difficult to implement than in-office systems; however, they have the potential to reduce hospital readmissions, since they can include details about chronic condition management and follow-ups to urgent care or emergency department visits.

Still, as John Halamka, President of the Mayo Clinic Platform, writes, “As we create more digital interventions to the home, we must meet patients at their level of technology comfort, literacy and affordability.” Those comfort levels may be lower than providers anticipate. Telemedicine uptake, for example, typically stands between 1% and 20% for a new telehealth option, Lori Uscher-Pines, Senior Policy Researcher for the RAND Corp., told Modern Healthcare last year.

When investing in digital platforms, healthcare organizations must invest equally in helping patients use these platforms to access, understand and follow through with their care plans. That may well be the most challenging piece of the puzzle.