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Practice Fusion · Jan 16, 2014

Turn your your exam room into a classroom

The word “doctor” derives from Latin: docere, to teach. However, making the exam room work like a classroom is a tough job. Educating and being educated are old tenets of doctoring, but new approaches to enhanced information delivery have an opportunity to boldly transform patient education.

Patients feel the pressure placed on those precious face-to-face moments during office visits; we, as doctors, even see it in their vital signs. While there’s no app yet for cloning ourselves, there are new mobile tools to create high impact counseling sessions with patients (and perhaps help reduce white coat hypertension):

Make like a medical Michaelangelo. Doodling isn’t just for Frank Netter, and you don’t need to be an artist to draw a few arrows on a heart cross-section. Many patients benefit from visual cues to mentally encode your take-home message. With a growing cadre of mobile doctor tools like DrawMD, annotating a library of anatomical images or animations can color encounters with more aha moments. Send a screen-capture to your patient via secure messaging in your EHR, so they can share the conversation with family, but don’t be surprised if your patient posts your portrayal of pelvic prolapse on their Facebook or Twitter!

Count on numbers. Like visuals, numbers can pack a punch of emotional salience. If your EHR supports structured lab results, show the trend to your patients on the screen. For growth charts in children, you can also visually plot to chart progress. Charts and graphs tend to become more interesting when they tell our body’s own story. Also encourage motivated patients to keep themselves honest by quantifying their own health. Home trends of blood pressure, blood glucose, steps walked and hours slept are informative inputs for a more robust, patient-centric care plan.

Transform waiting time. From getting an appointment to picking up a prescription, patients spend a ton of time waiting—often anxiously. Recover this once-fallow time and reduce stress with an interactive iPad video program. designed to engage and inform patients about your practice and/or their condition. Suppose the patient is about to have a consultation or care planning discussion that involves standard set of risks and benefits about a procedure. A waiting room video can contain the standardized patient-centered elements, priming the patient for a more personalized discussion. VideoMD has a physician-curated video collection geared toward patient education. This can lead to greater interaction, satisfaction and understanding.

Doctor without charting. Secure messaging—a HIPAA-compliant way to chat with patients between visits—is a good way to extend the encounter and maintain the conversation, which is automatically captured in the chart. A personal health record (PHR) like Patient Fusion, allows patients to access their health records and have a private conversation about them. Patients can discuss non-emergent concerns from side effect questions to quality of life issues, and doctors can help curate online resources. Doctors can also share care plans online and explain them in the context of lab results or other clinical data.

Traditional teaching connotes a one-way interaction and may not be the most efficient way to keep patients engaged. You may be surprised to find out how leveraging your time with the right technology can paradoxically make the doctor-patient relationship even more human.