In a time where our ability to communicate has grown exponentially, it seems that doctor-patient communication has fallen behind. We have seen the positive effects of communication technology in the workplace, the business world, and our personal lives, but what about healthcare?
The dynamics of doctor patient communication have faced several challenges. Patients are often unsatisfied by a lack of face-to-face time with their doctor, a gap in understanding their diagnoses or their conditions, and a feeling that patient care ends as soon as they leave the doctor’s office. And doctors – with their busy schedules – are often afraid that opening communication lines further will take over their lives.
A Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine study stated that “new technology can dramatically change that communication, from the invention of the telephone in 1876 to the more recent electronic mail (e-mail). These technologies revolutionize doctor and patient contact, with potential benefits tempered by concerns including privacy, security, and unwanted daily intrusions.” Despite the concerns, the study actually found that communication through e-mail was more convenient, resulted in greater satisfaction by both patients and physicians, and did not increase the time spent answering messages.
Effective communication between doctors and patients means better care, it means that patients have better understanding and can take a more proactive approach on their own health and it can even make the difference between life and death. The British Medical Journal noted that “several studies and reviews clearly show a correlation between effective communication and improved health outcomes. The outcomes affected were emotional health, resolution of symptoms, function, pain control, and physiological measures such as blood pressure and blood sugar concentration.”
Communication technology isn’t just a portal for business and social matters, it can help save lives as well. Direct email communication between doctors and patients isn’t widely practiced, but it’s definitely not an idea to be tossed out.