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Posts Tagged ‘medical quality’

One of the big efforts to improve the quality of medical care in the United States is the implementation of electronic health records. By putting our medical charts into electronic media, doctors will have more uniform access to our health histories, can be given ticklers for important screening tests, and can be told of potential drug interactions with medicines that were prescribed by other doctors, along with many other potential benefits. You can learn more about the advantages [and disadvantages] of electronic health records on my Getting Better Health Care radio program: “Will the electronic medical record revolutionize health care?.

These benefits may help improve patient satisfaction, too.

However, electronic health records have the potential to negatively impact patients’ medical experiences.  DrScore.com research has shown that the No. 1 factor that drives patients’ satisfaction with their doctors is the patient knowing he or she is seeing a friendly, caring doctor.  If patients find their doctors buried in a computer screen, punching buttons and typing, it could take away from the sense that the doctor is providing the patient personal attention.

There are some things doctors can do to manage the situation.

  • First, don’t put the computer on one side of the doctor’s chair and the patient on the other.  If you do place things that way, the doctor has to  turn their back to the patient to see the chart, and that is simply not good for patients’ impressions of their doctor.  I know, because that’s how things are arranged in my new office!
  • The other thing that doctors can do, especially if their office is like mine, is to acknowledge the problem to the patient. Tell the patient, “These new electronic health records are helpful in so many ways, but one thing I don’t like about them is that I have to turn my back to you to look at your chart.  I hope you will understand and don’t mind.”  Comments like these let patients clearly know that they are being seen by a physician that cares about them and about their feelings.  Letting patients in on one of these little secrets about medical office functioning also lets them feel like they are a part of the process. And they are part of the process — they are the very center of it.
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In a discussion with doctors on the value of online rating, some doctors expressed the very reasonable concern that anonymous online ratings let people trash their doctor and their doctor’s reputation.  Doing that, some doctors said, is completely unfair, especially since patient confidentiality rules completely preclude doctors from responding.  There is a lot of merit to that thinking.
One doctor suggested that patients should be required to give their name when posting online, saying, “If I had something bad to say about a doctor, I’d be more reluctant to say it if I had to identify myself.”

That doctor is, in my opinion, absolutely right. HOWEVER, that is why DrScore makes the doctor rating process anonymous.

Doctors need patients to feel completely open to giving their doctors both positive and negative feedback on their medical experiences.  The negative feedback is a gift, truly a gift — one doctor I know called it a “teachable moment” — that we doctors can use to make our patients’ medical care experiences better.  I know it has for me.

It’s a scary prospect for some doctors, the thought that we should do everything we can to encourage patients — happy or unhappy — to give us online feedback.  But it should not be scary.  Doctors are so committed to and good at giving their patients great medical care that doctors with 10 or more ratings have average scores that are well over 9 out of 10.  The fact that so many people love their doctors should make it much easier and more palatable for us to accept the negative criticisms when they come.

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