We Need to Talk: Why Vital Conversations Are So Important in Healthcare

Adam Husney, MD, Chief Executive Officer

Two years ago, before the COVID-19 pandemic, we shared a blog post about the importance of sparking vital conversations—namely, direct communication between patients and their care teams. Although it feels like we’ve pressed pause on some parts of life over the last two years, the importance of conversations between patients and their care teams has only grown. Technology, which we generally embrace, has also become an avenue for people to “do their own research,” and it's opened the door to patient doubts and fears over risk of misinformation. Now more than ever, it’s crucial to build trust and connections with patients so they can make the best informed decisions for their health. So, here we are, headed towards HIMSS 2022, in hopes that you share our commitment to sparking vital conversations in every patient encounter.


Sparking Vital Conversations

Every conversation between a patient and a provider is vital. You never know what information that patient might share or when they might share it. Sometimes it's not spoken—maybe it's the averting of someone’s eyes or an uncomfortable movement of their body. Communication helps develop relationships and create trust. And a patient-provider relationship based on trust has so much more power to heal.

In a perfect world, you’d get to spend as much time as you wanted with every patient, but you have a lot of constraints on your schedule. Sometimes it feels like you spend more time clicking than actually connecting with patients. In a healthcare environment where the average appointment lasts just 17 minutes, having these meaningful conversations and giving patients the information they need is becoming harder than ever.1

There is so much misleading information online, which makes it doubly important to make good, trusted information available for your patients. Many of us have seen the skin abscess self-diagnosed as the spider bite (poor spiders get blamed for everything), or the self-diagnosed brain tumor that was just a headache. And now there are countless stories of creative, ineffective, and sometimes harmful self-treatment for COVID-19. Giving patients access to evidence-based, medically reviewed health education that applies to their condition is critical—it helps patients better manage their health and lets clinicians maximize that valuable face-to-face time.

Trustworthy, easy-to-understand health education can help you spark these vital conversations. When you give patients content that has been medically reviewed and user tested, you can share more information with your patients without a larger time commitment. The key is to integrate educational material into the office visit.

It doesn’t stop there, though. Health education can also help you reach patients outside the office walls. You can email content ahead of time, to help prep patients for their appointment. A handout as they leave can help patients retain the information you’ve just discussed and allow them to review it at home. And by populating your website with educational content, you allow your patients access to accurate information, which increases their trust in you. They’ll come to associate you and your organization with answers they can trust.


Reaping the Rewards of Vital Health Conversations

Technology and digital health can streamline some aspects of health care, but there is really no substitute for face-to-face conversations and healing hands. In a study contrasting different styles of care, researchers found that physicians who used a participatory model of care (in which the doctor serves as educator, facilitates shared decision making, and encourages patients to participate in their care) had twice the patient retention rate of physicians using the traditional authoritative style of care (i.e., the physician is the patriarchal figure and decision maker).2,3

Increased satisfaction and better HCAHPS scores will also follow suit. As Vicki Maisonneuve details in Stop Guessing About Your Patient Satisfaction Scores, when Parkview Health tracked how often they provided patient education at the bedside using tablets, they found their HCAHPS scores went up when they used the tablets more often. When you provide evidence-based, plain-language patient education, you increase patient engagement and see better overall patient satisfaction—all without a bigger time commitment from you.

Of course, the real goal in all of this is better patient outcomes, and that can only come with increased patient compliance. An exciting new MedEncentive study has shown that incentivizing patients to review health education and discuss their understanding with their doctors results in better health outcomes and lower costs result.4

Spark a Vital Conversation With Healthwise

We’re passionate about making it easy for physicians to communicate with patients. We started doing it in 1975 with the first edition of the Healthwise® Handbook, and we’re doing it today through innovative, user-tested technology and content. See how you can spark vital conversations using trusted health education at the point of care using our new FHIR-enabled solution, Healthwise Advise. For more information, check out a demo or contact us today.

1 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16338912
2 Kaplan SH, Greenfield S, Gandek B, et al. (1996). Characteristics of physicians with participatory decision-making styles. Annals of Internal Medicine, 124: 497–504.
3 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3964421/
4 Greene JC, et al. (2019). Reduced hospitalizations, emergency room visits, and costs associated with a web-based health literacy, aligned-incentive intervention: Mixed methods study. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 21(10): e14772.