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Patients want more engagement with doctors

Patients are looking for doctors who will check up on them and offer guidance between office visits says a new report, “A Fragile Nation in Poor Health,” a look at why patients don’t follow their doctors’ treatment plans and what solutions are available to the healthcare community.

[See also: Got questions?]

Eighty-three percent of consumer survey respondents said they did not follow treatment plans given to them by their doctors exactly as prescribed, but, the respondents said, they’d do a better job following doctors orders if doctors checked up on them between visits. Forty-two percent said they would do better following a treatment plan if they received encouragement between visits and 35 percent said they’d do better if they received reminders via email, voicemail or text to do specific things, like take their medication.

The report, released by TeleVox Software, a company that provides automated solutions that can be used to engage patients, was based on a national sample of 1,015 consumers age 18 and older and more than 2,200 healthcare providers representing a variety of specialties and disciplines.

“Patients know they have to take responsibility for their own health, but they need and expect support and collaboration from their healthcare providers,” said Scott Zimmerman, president, TeleVox Software. “They want more than a prescription and some advice. In fact, if they just needed some advice on how to become healthier, they can find that online. People go to their doctor because they need help and support.”

“Increasingly with the bad economy, the stress on everyone has increased tremendously and patients want someone or something to help motivate them to stay healthy,” said Davis Liu, a California-based family physician who wrote “Stay Healthy, Live Longer, Spend Wisely.” “(I) don't think patients want to be babysat per se, but rather are (so) overwhelmed with choices, stress, etcetera, that sometimes doing the
right thing is difficult.”

However, the role of chief motivator, Liu says, may not be one doctors want to take on. TeleVox’s survey found that only 25 percent of responding healthcare providers said they believe it’s their job to keep patients on track between office visits even though providers also believe that a majority of patients would become more treatment compliant with motivation and coaching.

Doctors don’t have to add to their already burdensome workload to motivate patients, Zimmerman said. Consumers, he said, are used to getting automated reminders in other aspects of their lives – automatic bill pay reminders, birthday reminders, meeting reminders – so why shouldn’t they get the same thing from their healthcare provider?

“Providing this level of ongoing patient care can be as simple as writing out a prescription,” Zimmerman said. “Doctors just select a pre-packaged series of automated reminders that match that patient’s treatment plan, and the technology does the work of providing patients the support they need to stay on track between office visits.”

The kind of autopilot system that sends reminders is “what all of us want,” Liu said, whether it’s reminding us to take our medicine or guiding us to the best retirement savings plan. But patients don’t have to rely on their doctors to provide that motivation, whether from automatic reminders or otherwise, he pointed out.

[See also: Got questions?; improved patient compliance reduces readmissions.]

While patients with complex health issues may need the guidance of nurse case managers, fairly healthy patients can turn to other tools like stickK.com, an online program helping people “stick” to their health goals. “I see opportunities for anyone to close this ‘gap’ and it does not need to be doctors,” Liu said.

Follow HFN associate editor Stephanie Bouchard on Twitter @SBouchardHFN.

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