Improving Patient Outcomes: Online and Offline

The importance of content on a hospital website can’t be overstated. It engages and informs readers, while also enabling a hospital’s website to rank for terms that relate to the services provided. Content creation is necessary. But in the realm of healthcare, wherein the organizationas central purpose is to heal, content alone is not enough.

An article by Clinical Endocrinology News reports that patients only retain about 10% of the information from doctors during a visit, and only half leave with an understanding of their treatment plan. Whether blindsided by a surprising diagnosis, unable to understand medical jargon, or resistant to ask questions, patients are leaving their doctor appointments with little support for reaching a better health state. That’s not okay.

Result 1: Patients’ Health Doesnat Improve

The most glaring issue that results from uninformed patients is the appointment being a failed effort. If a patient doesn’t adhere to or even understand the doctor’s orders, the likelihood of improving is low. Treating patients for the same condition affects many organizations financially, as they now receive fines for increased readmission rates.

Result 2: Online Backlash is Prevalent

The second problematic result from the communication gap (before, during, and after) is one that affects the physician and hospital organization: negative reviews. An unfulfilled or dissatisfied patient is now free to share his or her experiences online. Whether venting to friends on a social network or anonymously posting a rating on a physician reviews website, patients’ words can greatly influence the physician’s online reputation. As Google continues to focus on delivering local results, reviews play a significant role in determining which results to serve in the search.

Anonymity online allows customers of every industry to profess their experiences without uncomfortable confrontation. If you haven’t already, develop a habit of routinely searching your hospital brand name or even specific physicians to gauge the general reputation in search engines and patient feedback a even if other physicians’ patients. By reading individuals’ reviews, you can better understand patients’ pain points and what your organization can do in the future to prevent dissatisfying experiences.

Improve Patient Outcomes with Communication

An article from the New York Times’ health blog tells of the recent trend in new physicians spending less time with patients a dedicating roughly eight minutes per patient. While many factors influence how a doctor allocates his or her time, there are a few ways doctors can improve patient outcomes, even on a tight schedule.

1. Improve one-on-one communication. Physicians often experience overwhelming burnout from the copious amounts of paperwork, patient visits and treatment, and chaotic schedules, but it’s essential to make the most of the short time spent with patients. Eliminate medical jargon and listen to patients’ concerns and needs before responding with what may be a long-winded or untailored response. An article in the Wall Street Journal has a fascinating collection of suggested improvements for doctor-patient communication. One of the experts interviewed, Dr. Peter Pronovost, contributed this thought:

“Doctors should ask open-ended questions to encourage each patient to describe his or her feelings and concerns about their illness. When doctors take the time to listen, the treatment decisions and care plans that they develop will better reflect their patients’ wishes; in turn, those plans are more likely to be followed by patients.”

2. Direct patients online for various stages of a patient’s life cycle. For instance, supplementing your website with information about heart valve disease (causes, symptoms, treatment, recovery) educates visitors and develops a sense of trust and appreciation. In addition to educational resources, a hospital website can prepare patients for their visit by outlining what they can expect, providing printable forms, and even prompting patients to create a list of questions to ask their physician.

3. Transfer doctors’ expertise and compassion to an online space One of our recent posts explained the need for doctors to share their expertise online. Although the extent of sharing and the platform used will differ among doctors, the need to proactively share online remains prevalent. Ideally, doctors could drive traffic to the site while simultaneously developing an online reputation by contributing articles to the blog and newsletter. At the very least, physicians can share articles they’ve read through Twitter or another social media channel, thus endorsing content their patients can then absorb.

Summary: Fulfilling Communication Gaps

In a perfect world, patients would come to consultations prepared and comfortable. Physicians would have enough time with patients to build a relationship and ensure directions are clear. Recovery or aftercare documents would live on the website, which would function as a resource center and health management tool. Gaps in communication sometimes prevent this scenario from becoming a reality, but increased online activity has created an opportunity for hospitals and physicians to facilitate tasks from the organization’s website. Improving patient outcomes starts by adopting a patient-centric standpoint regarding what they need to know and at what stage.