Much is being made of the meaningful use requirement to use secure online messaging to communicate with patients about relevant health information. The new Stage 2 measure requires that more than 5% of unique patients seen by the eligible professional during the reporting period were sent a secure message using the electronic messaging function of certified EHR technology.
But to meet that goal, we have to get our patient population engaged and using our patient portal. Worries about that very thing abound in medical practices of all specialties across all communities.
Like so much in life, we think about the “other guy” in an adversarial role — what we can control and how we can influence others. We complain about patients who just won’t do what we tell them. We get annoyed when patients won’t take the medicines we prescribe for them. We get frustrated when patients don’t show up for follow-up appointments or don’t follow through on ancillary tests we’ve scheduled for them.
But those attitudes, as natural as they might be, don’t help us get to where we need to be. We need to figure out how providers and staff at medical practice can engage our patients. How can we help them?
We can start by acknowledging that our patients are vulnerable. We need to respect their position to gain their respect, and that happens when we act to make something better or easier for the patient.
That something can be as simple as getting through on the phone; we need to answer phones promptly.
That something can be as simple as keeping the patient informed when their appointment is delayed because we are behind schedule.
That something can be asking them to explain their treatment plan to us after we’ve instructed them, so that we can be sure they understand our medical jargon.
In a Gallup poll done in 2011 of 1,037 adults surveyed nationwide, nurses earned the highest marks for honesty and ethical standards — higher than doctors, pharmacists, police officers, and clergy. Why are nurses ranked so high?
If your practice is like most, your nurses may spend more time with your patients than you do. The nurse performs the intake, the nurse talks to the patient on the phone when they call in, the nurse follows your encounter with the patient to instruct the patient and answer any questions. Patients often ask the nurse rather than “bother” the doctor. Nurses will take more time with the patient.
In a Press Ganey report of over 2 million survey responses from 675 facilities, the top two priorities that patients judge us by are our sensitivity to their needs and the overall cheerfulness at our practice.
That tells us how to engage with our patients. That’s where nurses excel and we can enhance that.
Sensitivity and cheerfulness, respect and kindness are the keys.
Sensitivity is demonstrated by respect, and for patients that means listening. Make eye contact. Easy and nothing to buy!
Cheerfulness and kindness start when we greet every patient with a smile every time. That’s an easy thing to do, too, and there’s no additional cost to the practice.
Remember the communication rule of 7%-38%-55%? Our spoken words contribute 7% to the understanding of our message; our tone contributes 38% to that understanding; and our body language (primarily facial) contributes 55% to understanding.
There are plenty of things in healthcare that we can’t control: federal regulations, billing requirements, patient behaviors. But we can use our knowledge power and relationship power to deliver information to make things easier and better for our patients.
We have the power to make a difference and to engage every patient we encounter. Our engagement enhances our patients’ experience, and that is engaging to our patient.
Rosemarie Nelson is principal, MGMA Health Care Consulting Group and blogs at Practice Pointers.