More Face Time, Better Doctor Visits
Technology is best when it heightens doctor-patient interaction
Communication is king when it comes to diabetes care, and the 21st century continues to offer new and innovative ways to interact. Many health care systems now give patients access to their personal health information on the Internet via “patient portals,” and many providers are reaching out to their patients via e-mail and social networks. These advances in technology that we could only imagine a decade ago have great potential to help patients and care providers communicate more effectively and to get people more involved in their own care.
However, amid the electrons flying through cyberspace, we still need to engage in true face time—not the smartphone feature that allows users to see each other, but direct personal interaction at the same time and place. One expert recently reviewed existing research on patient communication and found that the methods that work best are the ones that involve more actual in-person face time. This is where quality patient-provider relationships are created and nurtured, and individualized treatment goals and plans are negotiated with both patient and provider input.
The challenge for patients, providers, and care systems is to figure out how health information technology (to use the proper term) and person-to-person interactions can be combined most effectively. The opportunities and challenges are many. We need help from our information technology colleagues to build systems we can all access and use easily, both during and between clinic visits. People with diabetes need consistent and reliable Internet access, and we need to determine what information they actually need and how to best provide that information. Providers should be able to use information shared remotely by patients to improve the quality of their face-to-face interactions in the outpatient clinic. When incorporating new communication technology into our practices, we should be guided by the notion that new technology should complement and facilitate true face-to-face interactions, not replace them.
So get ready—the health information technology bus is coming to a personal computer or cell phone near you. Don’t be afraid to hop on board and visit new places. In five or 10 years, we won’t believe how far we’ve gone.