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Transforming Patient Communication

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Pat Stricker, RN, MEd
Senior Vice President
TCS Healthcare Technologies

I recently reviewed Trend Report #2from the 2012 Health Information Technology Survey. This report, "Communications & Social Media," compares how our communication with patients has changed over the course of the three surveys that were completed in 2008, 2010 and 2012. It identifies and tracks trends in traditional communication methods (phone, face-to-face meetings, letters, and facsimiles) with the newer communication platforms (emails, texting, social networking, and even blogging).

A majority of the respondents indicated they still communicate with patients via traditional methods: face-to-face meetings (over 70 percent), letters (74 percent), facsimiles (32 percent), and telephone (91 percent). However, with the exception of face-to-face communication, these traditional methods are declining. Over the past two years, letters have declined 3 percent, phone 2 percent, and facsimiles 25 percent. Some predict that fax machines will become obsolete as electronic transmission of records becomes more widely used.

Of the respondents, 52 percent said they use email to communicate with their patients. However, the use of text messaging, while still low at 13 percent, doubled from 2010 to 2012, and it is expected to double again to 28 percent by 2014. When looking at just the case management respondents, their use is even higher (20 percent in 2012 with a prediction of 38 percent by 2014). The Trend Report breaks down these types of statistics into specific groups, e.g. case management, health plans, providers, etc., which provides specifics by settings, types of programs, etc.

It was surprising to learn that blogging is being used by companies, physicians, and case managers to communicate with and educate patients and their families, as well as facilitate interactive comments and responses. While only 2 percent of the respondents said they use blogging now, it will be interesting to see how this may change over the next few years.
Social media is also a new, emerging method used to communicate with and educate patients. It is currently being used by 9 percent of the respondents, but it is expected to double within the next two years.

Other types of communication devices (such as smartphones, iPads/tablets, and remote monitoring) are also discussed. While use of smartphones to communicate with patients is still low at only 8 percent, one out of four respondents predicts they will be using it to support their patients within two years. While the use of iPads/tablets was not specifically addressed in the survey, some estimates indicate that 62 percent of physicians own iPads/tablets and over 50 percent of them have used their device in the care of patients.

Remote monitoring devices are also being used increasingly more each year. It was estimated that by the end of 2011, about 2.2 million patients worldwide were using these devices. While only 7 percent of the survey respondents reported using them, both provider and health plan respondents predicted that their use will double within the next two years to about 15 percent.

While there are still some concerns about HIPAA compliance, the cost of these new technologies and the ability to seamlessly implement them into health care processes is here to stay. Are you ready to adopt these changes and make them part of your daily routine?

To read the entire Trend Report, get more information about the 2012 Health Information Technology survey, or watch the two-part webinar series and get free Continuing Education credits, click here.

The 2012 Health Information Technology Survey was conducted by Schooner Healthcare Services for TCS Healthcare Technologies, the Case Management Society of America, the American Board of Quality Asurance and Utilization Review Physicians, Inc., and Trajectory Healthcare, LLC.

To contact Pat Stricker:

Email her at  or reach her at (530) 886-1700 ext. 215.


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