In this series studying the clinician-patient relationship, an idea was introduced which suggests that the conversations not happening between clinicians and patients are putting patients at a higher risk for serious medical errors like misdiagnoses, prescribing the wrong treatment plan or prescription drug, for instance. In essence, I believe it’s a root cause of why we can’t achieve the coveted healthcare “triple aim” – improving the patient’s experience of care (including quality and satisfaction); improving the health of populations; and reducing the per capita cost of healthcare.
Article 1 helped to explain that role confusion is an underlying reason why crucial conversations are not happening between clinicians and patients during the medical appointment. Then, article 2 detailed, from the patient’s viewpoint, why patients tend to feel powerless in their interactions with clinicians and often don’t share information about themselves.
Article 3 disclosed that despite feelings of uncertainty, fear, and powerlessness, patients are willing to share information about themselves, but there are conditions; and recently article 4 interpreted what motivates a patient to want to share information about themselves with clinicians.
That said, in what situation does a patient feel most comfortable sharing personal information? The answer may (or may not) surprise you.
How do patients prefer to share personal information?
In a recent study, I surveyed patients from both the U.S. and U.K. to understand how comfortable they were in sharing personal information in different scenarios: writing the information down on a paper form; inputting the information into a tablet or computer; or sharing the information face-to-face with a clinician. Here are the results:
- 79% of patients agreed with the statement, “I would be comfortable sharing information about myself by writing it down on a paper form”
- 80% of patients agreed with the statement, “I would be comfortable sharing information about myself with clinicians face-to-face during the medical appointment”
- 83% of patients agreed with the statement, “I would be comfortable sharing information about myself by inputting the information into a tablet or computer”
Remember that the type of information I’m referencing is the kind that is sociocultural in nature and/or related to the patient’s personal preferences, so aspects of one’s health and well-being that do not involve explicitly expressing physical pain and symptoms.
So, patients are most comfortable sharing information digitally, now what?
To be fair, the preference for one means of information sharing over another (e.g. sharing digitally versus sharing on paper) isn’t significant, but a preference does exist! Some response trends explaining the patient’s rationale included: perceived redundancy in paper forms and reported unfavorable experiences in face-to-face communication.
Conversely, from the clinician and health system side, time, data privacy concerns and workflow are commonly mentioned constraints that are perceived barriers to digitally collecting high quality patient information.
This finding, that patients are most comfortable sharing personal information digitally above other means, helps to validate a few notions discussed throughout this series:
- Clinicians must express a willingness to receive a patient’s personal information and understand the value of a patient’s personal information used in combination with their existing biomedical knowledge
- Digital health tools should be used in a meaningful way to pose a dynamic series of questions to patients in order to systematically elicit personal information that clinicians can incorporate into their decision making process
- Managing both the spoken and unspoken communications between clinicians and patients is critical. For instance, during the appointment, the patient is actively assessing both the similarities and differences between themselves and their clinician to determine the clinician’s degree of openness, empathy and the level of trust that can be established. On the other hand, the clinician should be assessing how to approach the dialogue with the patient to manage their perceptions, reflecting on their own beliefs and values that may influence their judgment and ultimately create a more comfortable environment to disarm the patient.
Agree? Disagree? Tell me what you think!
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