The Patient-Doctor Technocommunication Gap

There are many gaps to realizing the full potential of digital health and helping patients and their families connect with doctors and other members of the care team using information and communications technologies (ICTs).

There are many gaps to realizing the full potential of digital health and helping patients and their families connect with doctors and other members of the care team using information and communications technologies (ICTs).

A recent report claims that US Sickcare, Inc could potentially save $300 million dollars using telemedicine, remote sensing, and behavior modification tools.

Unfortunately, while an overwhelming number of patients would like to communicate with their doctors using text or email, less than one-fifth of doctors say they actually do that. We are still in the early stages, but what do we need to do to overcome physician resistance?

1. Create user-friendly interfaces that don't interfere with workflow.

2. Screen communications for urgency to avoid wasting time.

3. Triage communications to the most appropriate member of the care team.

4. Pay doctors to render eCare.

5. Create interoperable interfaces with electronic medical records.

6. Educate patients about when and how to use online communications to connect with their doctors and create appropriate incentives and penalties for those who think doing so is "free" and abuse it.

7. Create medicolegal protections for use of ICTs to communicate. Doctors are getting sued for not answering emails in a timely fashion, when in fact, the patient should have gone to an emergency room.

8. Fill the void between the data and the doctor with information navigators.

9. Educate doctors and provide them with malpractice coverage reductions for those who conform to best practices.

10. Teach medical students and residents how and when to use ICTs when communicating with patients.

Doctors will continue to resist using technologies that do not satisfy their triple aim—seeing evidence that it helps patients, saves them time, and provides incentives to do so such that the benefits outweigh the risks and costs. Of course, there could be mandates, rules, dictums, and other regulations requiring doctors to do it. We've seen that strategy before and will continue to see more of it in the future. But, at what cost?