What if physicians integrated patient “wait time” into the office visit by:
Talking to patients (via printed handouts, electronic media, patient portals, etc.) about their evolving new role (and that of the physician and other providers) under health reform. Contrary to the popular press which touts the empowered patient, most of us still assume the traditional “sick role” during the office visit. The sick role is characterized by patient passivity, limited information sharing, and minimal question-asking.
Teaching people while waiting how (using the same media as above) to become “better patients.” I recall an article where physicians were asked 5 things they wished their patients knew. At the top of the physicians’ “wish list” was a desire for patient’s to be better prepared and more focused during the visit. The point being that more prepared patients would help the physician get to the correct diagnosis and treatment plan faster.
How exactly will better physician-patient communication lead to more productive visits?
Research has consistently shown that patient-centered communications (versus traditional physician-directed communications) can result in more productive office visits as measured by
1) the amount/quality of information shared by patients,
2) the number of questions asked by patients, and
3) and the level of patient retention of information shared by physicians.
These same studies show that the adoption of patient-centered communications adds little if any more time to the length of office visits. Once patients and physicians become proficient in the use of patient-centered communications methods, physicians may well be able to do more during the visit but in less time.
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