The methods and means of effective patient communication have been revolutionized in the last decade. Email, websites, social media, and patient portals have opened up rich new avenues for coordinating care and communicating with your patients quickly and efficiently, improving the overall patient experience. In order to reap the many benefits of electronic communication for your practice and your patients, you’ll need to foster an understanding of the technology, invest in the right equipment and software and, most importantly, learn about ways of safeguarding privileged information.
The right solution for your practice
How far you go with electronic communication will depend a lot on your patients’ needs and desires. An elderly patient may be less interested or less able to engage with you over the web, while busy young parents may clamor for the ease and convenience of online options. Take a look at your demographics and take the time to survey your patients about what kinds of electronic communication options would serve them best.
The federal government has been encouraging doctors to upgrade their record systems to Electronic Health Records (EHR). If you haven’t looked into this yet, it might be a great first step. Many systems are designed to be integrated with online patient portals, where patients can view their complete medical history and communicate electronically with their healthcare team in a secure, encrypted environment. It’s an investment, but there are financial incentives and programs which can soften the blow and facilitate your setup.
Privacy is primary
Keeping patient information private and secure is a foremost concern for all healthcare providers. The HIPAA Privacy Rule insists that any electronic sharing of electronic health information must be subjected to “reasonable administrative, technical, and physical safeguards.” At a minimum, this means that you should not carry out private conversations with patients over Facebook or unsecured email accounts on a shared computer. HIPAA doesn’t mandate any particular practices, but it is your responsibility to make sure that any patient health information you share stays safe and secure.
Done right, electronic communication can provide a higher rate of patient satisfaction. More avenues for information, education, and conversation for your patients can build awareness, trust, and a sense of being true partners in their healthcare.
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