9:14 a.m. Sunday… Only one person in the checkout line at Stop and Shop in Everett, MA. Cool. Time to play pop culture catch-up. Who knew Jennifer Aniston might be getting married in Greece? Or that Brad and Angie and all those kids were in the Galapagos applying SPF 1,000 to protect against rays bouncing off that $500,000 engagement ring? Hang on…Newsweek next to Us and People and Hello? Weird. Even weirder, it was screeching, “The End of the Doctor-Patient Relationship” above the Newsweek title itself.1
Kudos to the Newsweek editors on “The Doctor Will See You—If You’re Quick” by Shannon Brownlee, acting director of the New America Health Policy Program and author of Overtreated: Why Too Much Medicine is Making Us Sicker and Poorer . I shelled out the $5.99 for the double issue. We so didn’t get the 411 that the doctor-patient relationship is history. Weren’t we just in Washington, DC, hosting the NaviNet Chief Medical Officer Advisory Board Meeting during which we discussed best practices in patient and provider engagement for accountable care delivery models, particularly the patient-centered medical home (PCMH)? Why did so many healthcare executives and thought leaders travel to gather and apply their expertise to the challenges around patient and provider engagement if that relationship was going the way of Brad and Jen?
As the article quickly points out, the “erosion” of the doctor-patient relationship is “at the heart of the problem.” Declining patient satisfaction reflects many factors, but according to Newsweek, the most prevalent seems to be a lack of true communication between the patient and the doctor, which can manifest itself in patients’ not understanding what a physician is telling them, primary care physicians (PCPs) having too many patients to serve because of a fee-for-service model, and patients, as a result, simply not feeling “cared for.”
One fascinating stat cited says, “23 seconds: the average amount of time a patient has to explain symptoms before being interrupted by a doctor.” Combine this with a study discussed in which 34 physicians were taped during more than 300 patients visits—and the doctors spent an average of 1.3 minutes communicating “critical information” to the patient, but thought they had spent more than eight minutes. So many disconnects.
Mental memo to self: Keep reading but do not get sick. Hold on: Highlighted is the transformation happening in healthcare today and the move to accountable care models with PCPs as quarterbacks of their teams and the shared decision-making that empowers patients when deciding among treatment options. These groundbreaking concepts that we healthcare market participants have been debating and supporting are now truly part of the pop culture dialogue, as they should be.
We have been proponents of enabling moments of care, the seminal time that patients spend with their most trusted health advisor, their physician. An engaged patient who “shares decisions” is more compliant with treatment and prescription drug regimens. Using administrative, financial, and clinical technology solutions to optimize the provider office workflow and enable a PCP to spend more time strengthening that patient relationship really does work. Just look at the recent results from Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield New Jersey, including the 26% lower rate in emergency room visits and 21% lower rate in hospital inpatient admissions. Who knows…if Brad Pitt had been enrolled in a PCMH in 2005, he may not have needed hospitalization.
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1 “The Doctor Will See You—If You’re Quick,” Shannon Brownlee, Newsweek, April 23 & 30, 2012.