In the realm of health care, recent innovations have improved the odds that technology can be used as a relationship conduit rather than a barrier. There is evidence that technology can actually smooth the relationship between a healthcare provider and a patient. The idea is that technology offloads some of the mundane tasks that eat up valuable time during a doctor’s appointment. Technology can be used to:
- Measure many biometrics and symptoms
- Provide historical data quickly and visually
- Create a tangible record of instructions for the patient
- Pinpoint the right conversation to have with the patient right now
Aren’t I just describing the way technology like the electronic medical record (EMR) is already used today? Yes, but technology has already advanced enough to automate those functions and further reduce the time input required from providers. We just haven’t necessarily made use of these innovations yet. Consider futuristic pilots like this one in Chicago, where paramedics and doctors use Google Glass to allow each team to “see” what the other one does and facilitate transfer of patients between caregivers.
Better use of technology in health doesn’t have to be so far out, either. One example of technology facilitating the conversation between doctor and patient is Mayo Clinic and Aperiva’s health analytics, algorithms that can be applied to patient data to detect high risk patients who would benefit from immediate intervention. By using technology, the provider can eliminate a good deal of detective work and immediately focus his or her time on the areas that will most benefit the patient.
When you think about the issues that currently plague doctor-patient interactions–issues like:
- Doctors having as little as 8 minutes of face-to-face appointment time per patient, with 15 minutes being a common upper limit
- Patients forget as much as 80% of the information their doctor tells them during an appointment–immediately
- But, patients are more likely to remember information shared in the context of a relationship-based conversation
Given these findings, it makes sense to think about ways to nurture the doctor-patient relationship by offloading some of the purely diagnostic or informational tasks to technology tools. Given how easily people form relationships with technology, as in the case of educational avatars, we may even be able to leverage it for more “human” aspects of care.
We’re at an exciting crossroads in how health care is delivered and received, and technology has an important role to play. The challenge is for us to use the technology not just where it’s most convenient, but where it also serves most as a conduit rather than a barrier to the human connection between doctor and patient.