These days, you simply can’t talk about health care without discussing technology. Every day, new advancements help create better outcomes and healthier patients. But, not all technology is created equal, and even the best tech tools in medicine have their pros and cons. Some providers are hesitant to put too much technology between them and their patients, citing concern over diminished person-to-person contact. But, how do patients feel about all of this? With that question in mind, we dug up some stats to get to the bottom of patients’ opinions about technology in the clinic. Here’s what we learned:
Technology-assisted education leads to greater patient satisfaction.
As we mentioned in this WebPT Blog post, “Research from The Beryl Institute showed that providing interactive technology (like digitized home exercise programs) in hospital settings sparked a 10% increase in patient satisfaction and a more than 40% improvement in satisfaction with educational materials.” Furthermore, according to research from Nuance Communications (cited by HIT Consultant), “58% of patients feel technology improves patient experience” when providers use technology to educate or explain procedures. And when you consider the evidence showing that patient satisfaction directly influences patient outcomes and retention, it’s easy to see why more and more practices are embracing tools like interactive home exercise programs and patient engagement software.
Patients feel technology actually improves communication.
If you ask a provider what his or her top tech-related complaint in the clinic is, you’ll probably receive a response like:
- “It slows down my process,” or
- “It kills patient-provider communication.”
And while it’s true that some patients feel like they are competing with a computer screen for their healthcare providers’ attention, patients who have used patient-facing EMR features—such as a patient portal or interactive HEP—tend to be more satisfied with their providers overall. According to a study in the Journal of Hospital Medicine, patients showed greater satisfaction across multiple aspects of care (e.g., ease of access to information and communication) when their providers used an EMR as opposed to documenting on paper.
Furthermore, patients who used the aforementioned patient-facing EMR functionalities expressed increased loyalty to their providers and believed they received a higher level of care than patients who did not use such functionalities. But here’s the real bombshell: patients who used an EMR feature to communicate with their providers felt they had better communication and could access information more easily than non-EMR users—a result that runs contrary to the widespread belief that technology hinders patient-provider communication.
Technology may improve outcomes.
If you’re thinking all of this sounds too good to be true, you’re not alone. While the aforementioned study suggested a positive correlation between EMR use and patient satisfaction, other studies have produced conflicting findings. During a study titled, “Impact of Health Information Technology on the Quality of Patient Care,” researchers found no association between patient satisfaction and EHR adoption. However, according to the study, “Advanced EHR adoption was independently associated with fewer patients with prolonged length of stay and seven-day readmissions.” This is likely because such outcomes are often influenced by strong communication between patients and providers—and between individual members of a patient’s care team.
Some patients are skeptical of telemedicine.
Another area in healthcare technology that’s ripe with untapped potential for rehab therapists (and their patients) is telehealth. Unfortunately, CMS’s reluctance to add rehab therapists to the list of eligible providers has made advancement in this area slow going. However, some payers do reimburse PTs and OTs for telerehab services. That said, many patients may need some education on the benefits of telerehab. According to a study conducted by TechnologyAdvice Research, “75% of patients wouldn’t trust a diagnosis via telemedicine.” At the same time, 95% of patients report being totally satisfied with telehealth experiences, which means there’s certainly hope for the future of telehealth.
As this article from Barton Associates explains, something that could alleviate a patient’s concerns about the impersonality of virtual visits is having a pre-established, in-person rapport with his or her provider: “If the patient has already met with the provider in person, they may feel more comfortable scheduling telemedicine visits than if they didn't already know the provider.” In fact, some states require patients to receive an in-person evaluation before they can participate in any telemedicine visits.
Still, many patients are interested in what telehealth has to offer.
Despite the skepticism, a survey from Software Advice found that 77% of respondents would be more likely to choose healthcare providers who offer telehealth services over those who do not. After all, it’s better to have the option to use telehealth services and not need them, than to not have the option at all. The same survey also found that skepticism was less apparent in younger patients, painting a hopeful picture for the future of virtual visits.
While technology has certainly improved the delivery of health care overall, some folks may be resistant to change. However, with a little patient education and the right kinds of tech in the clinic, these advancements can have a major impact on the patient experience—in a good way. And once you make that a priority, you’ll undoubtedly win your patients’ loyalty.