With the rapidly approaching new year, there comes the question of New Year’s Resolutions. Are they to be made or ignored? Many physicians use them to refocus their efforts on meaningful initiatives. Under the guise of a new year’s resolution, some clinicians take the opportunity to remind influencers and stakeholders of efforts that need to be redoubled for the benefit of patients and patient care. We jumped into the online stream of discussion and this is what we found trending. Here’s what some of your colleagues are focusing on for the new year.
Some call it creating “happy patients,” others want to improve “patient experience,” and yet others mention “patient satisfaction.” Regardless of the term you use, communicating with patients in order to improve their care, compliance, and satisfaction is a worthy goal. It includes ensuring that office functions like scheduling are streamlined to make it easy for patients to get in the door. It includes insurance verification so that staff can communicate financial responsibilities to patients and engage them at the outset. At the core, it includes the all-important physician-patient communication so that patients feel they have time with a physician who listens and understands them. Patient communication is the result of a comprehensive audit of the practice to ensure it is patient-centric. It’s a matter of good health.
“My resolution is to continue to use motivational interviewing to exhort and help patients (especially those with diabetes) who are ready to change. This starts with implementing just one change and then building momentum from there so patients don’t feel overwhelmed. If they’re ready and motivated from within, positive change will occur, and it’s less likely it will be temporary (like many New Year’s resolutions).”
Edward C. Chao, DO, associate clinical professor of medicine, University of California, San Diego, VA San Diego Healthcare System.
“Patient experience with their physician visit is rapidly becoming a quality metric. This is my practice’s top priority for 2016 — to ensure that every patient contact with our office (phone, email, visit) is prompt and seamless, with respect for their time. We want patients to be satisfied with their care in their time of need.”
Omar S. Khokhar, MD, staff gastroenterologist, OSF St Joseph Medical Center (Bloomington, IL).
Rope in Technology
A resounding wish from physicians in all corners of healthcare is to rope in the unwieldy EHR system and make it work for, instead of against, physicians. It requires too many keystrokes, can make data mining difficult and instead of increasing physician-patient face time it detracts from it. Physicians are making their own resolutions to push for improvements in the system to make it more functional so it supports quality patient care and safety.
Other physicians have increased implementation of telehealth on their new year’s resolution list. It can increase access and reduce healthcare costs as it prevents costly emergency room visits and improves care. Patients in rural areas, those with chronic health conditions, the disabled and the housebound are all benefitting from telemedicine. Many systems are finding that telemedicine is reducing wait times in the ER and extending care to those who may not follow-up as they should, including those with mental health and substance abuse issues. 86% of physicians say that telehealth, including the use of mobile apps will play a major role in managing patient care over the next five years.
“To simplify our EHR and make documentation easier and quicker. Almost all orthopedic surgeons I speak to complain about the same thing: EHR is painful for the patient and the physician. It also makes previously easy to read notes look like a copy of War & Peace where pertinent information is hidden. I hope to work with different EHRs to find one where surgeons can put the focus back on the patient and allow the surgeon to quickly and completely document the encounter. It’s much easier said than done.”
Russell Russo, MD, sports medicine-trained orthopedic surgeon, Orthopedic Center for Sports Medicine (New Orleans, LA).
Seek Work-Life Balance
The lack of a work-life balance is often the one thing that tips the scale for physicians. It can be a source of dissatisfaction with one’s chosen career. It is also a resolution that many physicians want to make for the new year. It can take the form of a wish to breathe more, creating the time to meditate, or the expression of making the world “kinder and gentler”. No matter how it is articulated, the sentiment and the desire is the same; to reconnect with loved ones and maintain essential human bonds.
“I probably talk to my siblings on a quarterly basis and my parents maybe every few weeks, at least once a month. I’d like to talk to my parents every week and talk with my siblings every month, to just stay connected.”
Dr. Andrew Goldstein, researcher at UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center
The old adage is that new year’s resolutions are made to be broken. In the case of patient care, technology and work/life balance we would argue that these resolutions are made to be reinforced, promoted and supported by a broad network. They are resolutions that are worthy of success and that benefit the individual as much as they benefit the whole.
When asked about new year’s resolutions, one physician had a healthy and realistic point of view.
“I’ve started telling my patients that I don’t want them to improve their health as a New Year’s resolution because we all know how that goes. One slip-up and you feel the whole effort is lost. Rather, I suggest that they just try to make some small changes aimed at better health on an ongoing basis. At the end of the day, we’re all a work in progress.”
As far as her own resolutions go, “I will still most likely eat too much chocolate.”
Dr. Deanna Attai, breast cancer surgeon & assistant clinical professor at UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine and UCLA Health Burbank Breast Care