You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myAJC.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myAJC.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myAJC.com.

Doctors can help change patient experience


Like many physicians, I pursued a career in medicine with the goal of improving peoples’ lives. It wasn’t until I completed my residency and started practicing as a hospitalist in Atlanta that I realized developing relationships with patients and improving their collective experience is often placed on the back burner.

From paperwork to the everyday pressures of releasing and admitting new patients, it became clear that building a strong patient-doctor relationship was growing more and more elusive. In my 20 years in medicine, not much has changed. In fact, today’s physicians face even more challenges and pressures that diminish the opportunities to spend quality time with patients.

Those issues are clouding patient safety. According to a recent survey on workloads cited by Medpage Today and authored by Johns Hopkins University, 40 percent of hospitalists said their typical inpatient load exceeded safe levels at least once a month; 36 percent reported having an unsafe workload at least weekly. Those excessive workloads lead to inadequate time with patients, which spur unnecessary tests, procedures, consultations and serious errors.

While hospitals are implementing quality initiatives and using technology to restrict lapses, it’s safe to say the focus on patient experience still needs resuscitating.

Misalignment continuously plagues the relationship between physicians and patients. Traditionally, physicians are paid on a fee-for-service model, with their performance in the area of patient satisfaction having little to no influence. Now the trajectory of health care is beginning to move toward quality of care with initiatives like the HCAHPS (Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems) survey, giving patients more of a say. These survey results are publicly published, bringing more transparency and incentives for physicians to prioritize quality of care.

While feedback about the patient experience is important for hospitals and health care providers, patients should be a priority and included in the conversation about their care throughout hospital stays, not just at the very end. Moving toward a care-team model where hospitalists, nurses, primary care physicians and others work together and engage the patient throughout their stays can curb surprises, decrease chances of readmission and make any transition process seamless.

Additionally, it’s important to note any measure to further engage and satisfy patients should be monitored closely to determine its effectiveness. A number of hospitals implement processes with the right intentions, but those processes ultimately generate poor outcomes. For example, a hospital I once worked with instituted “stop lights” that would flash and blare when noise levels got past a certain point. However, this hospital, like most, was incredibly busy and the measure designed to keep noise levels down actually contributed to the problem.

Another more serious scenario is when physicians treat patients based on potential scoring in satisfaction surveys. Having what they’ll score in a satisfaction survey top of mind might make the decision between doing what’s popular with the patient and what’s best for the patient really challenging. Ultimately, satisfaction should never override quality of care.

There’s an art to balancing patient satisfaction. One thing in particular that gives Atlanta physicians an advantage is the number of health-care technology tools rooted and available here. Physicians in this area have greater access to innovations that aid in patient monitoring, communication and care coordination. Although Georgia, like many states, struggles with expanding its integrated health data delivery network known as a Health Information Exchange, the patient-focused technologies and services prevalent in the Atlanta market are moving the dial in the right direction.

The days when physicians could sit in a room with a patient for 30 to 45 minutes and develop a rapport with them has virtually disappeared, but some Atlanta companies find innovative ways to revive the patient experience. There’s a lot of hope for a more connected point-of-care treatment model that delivers a better collective patient experience and improved outcomes.

Dr. Steven Liu is founder and CMO of Atlanta-based Ingenious Med.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Opinion

New targets needed for immigration enforcement

We are seeing deeper divides in the streets, in protests which are getting more filled with clashes, hate and violence. Much of the division seems to involve skin color, ethnicity and how “American” they are; who is really “American,” and who is allowed to be an “American.”  Over the last decade, the issue of...
Opinion: Highlights (i.e., lowlights) of CBO health analysis
Opinion: Highlights (i.e., lowlights) of CBO health analysis

(AP) The Congressional Budget Office and Joint Committee on Taxation have released their analysis of the Senate GOP’s health-care proposal.
Revered APS principal Stephanie Johnson leaves Maynard Jackson High for state post
Revered APS principal Stephanie Johnson leaves Maynard Jackson High for state post

Over the years, the state Department of Education has either courted or poached – depending on your perspective – some key folks from metro Atlanta school systems. Former state school chief John Barge and current office holder Richard Woods, both from outside the metro hub, reached a bit farther and brought in some rural Georgia educators...
Opinion: A win for religious liberty at the U.S. Supreme Court
Opinion: A win for religious liberty at the U.S. Supreme Court

The empty playground at Trinity Lutheran Church in Columbia, Mo., shown in January 2016. (AP file photo) Monday was a busy day for court rulings, and not only in Georgia.
Readers Write: June 27

With voting also comes responsibility The recent election shows how powerful our vote can be. Our vote is the one thing that candidates strive for and hope to achieve. They court us and almost everything they do during the campaign is to get our vote. The mere thought of losing our vote makes candidates tremble. The power of our vote that was so hard-won...
More Stories