Patient’s Take On Making Hospital IT Patient-Friendly

Posted on September 4, 2013 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare editor and analyst with 25 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

Today I was talking with my mother about her experiences with hospitals and IT. My mother, you should know, is so computer averse that she won’t send or receive e-mails — she leaves that to Dad.  But despite her fear of home computing, she’s got some interesting opinions about how hospitals should use health IT to involve patients in the care process:

* If possible, she suggests, hospitals should assess a patient’s “electronic IQ” to see how comfortable they are with using technology. I liked this because it could apply not only to in-hospital info sharing but also the patient’s ability to participate in remote monitoring or other mHealth modalities.

*Give patients access to a schedule (via an app on a tablet, perhaps) which tells them when various tests, procedures and clinician visits are likely to happen. This not only calms the patient, it helps keep the family in synch with the patient’s routine, she notes.

* Display results of key tests — or if clinicians are concerned that patients won’t understand them, at least register when the results have been received, so  patients know their care process is progressing. She’d be happy with a note that said: “Dr. X will be in to discuss the results of your CT scan shortly.”

* Allow the patient and their family/caregivers to make notes within the system of what they want to discuss with clinicians.  Otherwise, as she rightly points out, they’re likely to forget what they wanted to say when the nurse or doctor swoops into the room with their own agenda.

Actually, my mother’s vision is already largely in place in at least one facility. As I reported last year, the Mayo Clinic has already begun a program using content- and app-loaded iPads to move the patient through their inpatient stay. Not only does the Mayo implementation do everything on my mother’s wish list, it also allows patients to report on pain levels and exchange messages with doctors.

Let’s hope more hospitals find a way to use IT to make the care process more transparent for patients. While it calls for a not-inconsiderable investment in time and resources, it seems like an excellent way to keep patients engaged in their care.