Patients wish their physicians would communicate with them in between visits, but most say that their physicians don’t, according to a study by Varolii that highlights the disparity between patient expectations for preventative care and physician actions. Half of the adults surveyed said they felt that communication (such as tips, reminders and encouragement) from their provider via text message, email or smartphone could have prevented a health problem they experienced.
As the study indicates, social technologies can play a leading role in helping providers more easily transition from acute care to preventative care. Texting, email and smartphone apps can allow providers, health systems and health/wellness-focused organizations to quickly reach patients in a format that is most convenient to them. Through technology, patient preferences and needs can be taken into consideration when determining through which communication channel and how often to send messages, allowing the messages to have maximum effectiveness. Communications can be tailored to the level of health literacy of the patient, and direct patients to more detailed information.
Certainly, managing these preferences and crafting effective digital health messages will take more time than the current system of doing nothing. But, if, for example, providing a reminder to a patient to take his or her medication everyday helps them remember to actually take it, and prevents them from needing additional care, both the patient and the health care system win.
David McCann, CEO at Varolii, said: “We are in the era of the informed, digital consumer. They want more information, sooner, when it suits them, and via the channel of communication they prefer.” So true. Health care providers need to put into place systems that can help them reach the consumer where and when the consumer would like to interact, in order to maximize the effectiveness of their health communication. Digital technology offers the best opportunity to do this.