FORT WORTH, Texas – As costs rise, patients are demanding a bigger role in their health care.
A nationally recognized panel of experts says technology and communication will play key roles in patient satisfaction and personalized care.
“Our physicians and medical students need to be able to be compassionate in their communication,” Evonne Kaplan-Liss, M.D., M.P.H., the assistant dean for narrative reflection and patient communication at the TCU and UNTHSC School of Medicine said. “Technology cannot replace breaking bad news or the connection patients seek.”
Kaplan-Liss was part of a panel of health care industry experts who participated in the TCU and UNTHSC School of Medicine and TCU Health Care MBA forum on Wednesday, December 4 at Texas Christian University.
More than 250 people attended the panel discussion titled, “A Healthy Bottom Line: Improving the Patient Health Care Experience,” which was moderated by Stuart D. Flynn, M.D., founding dean of the TCU and UNTHSC School of Medicine, and Daniel Pullin, J.D., dean of the TCU Neeley School of Business.
Technology has helped streamline different types of businesses across the world. In many industries it has helped reduce costs, increase productivity and curate new customers, but in health care it has had a slightly different effect.
“Technology is helping us with a lot of things like diagnostics and treatment,” Kaplan-Liss said. “Ironically though as we use technology more the art of medicine becomes even more important.”
Winjie Tang Miao, M.H.A, senior executive vice president and chief experience officer at Texas Health Resources, and Benjamin Isgur, M.P.Aff., FACHE, Health Research Institute Leader at PwC US in Dallas, joined Dr. Kaplan-Liss to discuss what’s important to patients as they navigate the difficulties of modern health care.
“Ultimately, it’s going to determine where patients go for their health care,” Kaplan-Liss said.
The first challenge in preserving the patient experience is a financial hurdle for many Americans.
This country is paying more per healthcare outcome than any other industrialized nation in the world, Pullin said.
“If you can’t afford proper care, you can’t be your best self,” he said.
The average single health care deductible in 2019 is currently $1,655, but that’s slightly more than double the average of $826 a decade ago, according to a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
“They are spending more out of their pocket and they want a better experience,” Isgur said. “They are also seeing how they are being treated in other parts of the economy. When they work with travel companies or their financial institutions everything is available to them on their phones. They want that also in their health care world.”
Health care providers are also seeing other companies try to fill those voids for patients in various ways. About 75% of consumers surveyed by Accenture in 2018 said that technology is important to managing their health. In that same study, 48% of health care consumers reported that they were using mobile health apps compared with just 16% in 2014.
“We’re seeing other companies coming in from outside of health care to provide a better patient experience,” Isgur said. “That’s why there’s so much importance being placed on providing a great consumer experience in health care.”
There are also additional costs, federal government regulation and the fact that major health care industries deal with highly sensitive data from patients, according to Miao.
“As Ben [Isgur] said during our discussion, ‘Health care is not the same as buying an iPhone there are different stakes,’ ” Miao said. “But I do think improving work flow, improving the experience for a caregiver and being able to extend the care we provide to other settings that technology will be an enabler.”
She also added that implementing new technology that assists clinicians and help them preserve their connection with their patients should be a top priority.
“Consumers don’t want a transactional experience anymore,” Miao said. “Where health care companies can build value is earning a lifetime of loyalty and trust from patients.”
What does patient satisfaction have to do with the bottom line in the health care industry?
“Patient satisfaction affects clinical outcomes, patient retention and medical malpractice claims,” Flynn said. “Patients who trust their doctors have better clinical outcomes.”
“On a local level I think it’s about meeting people where they are,” Miao said. “And providing care and support in that moment when they need it. While there’s technology and all these global trends ultimately healthcare is a very personal thing. So now the goal is to figure out how do we keep that personalization.”
Kaplan-Liss said this begins with a new approach to medical education for future physicians and more training for current practicing physicians.
“Compassion is empathy plus action, and we’re training our medical students to do this,” Kaplan-Liss said.
She is currently the nation’s first dean devoted solely to patient communication. Before joining the Fort Worth medical school, Kaplan-Liss previously served as founding medical director of the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science in New York state.
There, she developed the curriculum and led national and international workshops to educate students, faculty, and administrators.
“We’re all empathetic but what makes or breaks an encounter with a patient is whether you can show that empathy,” Kaplan-Liss said. “The moment is missed in 87 percent of encounters in primary care.”
Prescotte Stokes III is the Integrated Content and Marketing Manager at the TCU and UNTHSC School of Medicine. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org