By Helen K. Kelley
The landscape of healthcare in America is facing rapid change, from the way care is delivered to a renewed focus on the physician-patient relationship. Here, three Atlanta-area physicians weigh in on what they believe the future of healthcare holds for physicians and patients.
Shared decision-making, technology help drive healthy behaviors
According to Mary L. Wilson, M.D., president and executive medical director of Kaiser Permanente of Georgia, technology and involving patients in the decision-making about their own care are effective tools for better creating better outcomes, both for today and in the future.
“One of Kaiser Permanente’s primary tenets is finding methods that successfully encourage healthy behaviors in our patients. We look at every physician visit as an opportunity to talk about healthy habits with the patient, and we cue that conversation up through the patient’s EMR,” she said. “The EMR prompts the nurse and physician to ask probing questions about the patient’s lifestyle, including exercise and eating habits, to gauge whether or not the patient is open to discussing ways to improve their health. If the patient indicates interest in making changes and the physician intervenes at the right moment, there is a much higher rate of success.”
Wilson says that the EMR will continue to play a role in the future in patient satisfaction and better health.
“The EMR helps us link with patients so that we can ask the right questions and encourage them to share in decision-making,” she explained. “We find that patients are likely to have better outcomes if they play a part in designing their own healthcare. And the EMR is a tool that helps us help our patients achieve their goals.”
Wilson adds that Kaiser, in response to patients’ growing interest in and reliance on technology, is looking at ways to make medical records more accessible.
“Here in Georgia, we’re thinking about having open notes in patient charts so that the patient can access his or her whole medical record online any time they want,” she said.
Returning to a patient-centric system
Thomas E. Bat, M.D., president of the Medical Association of Atlanta and CEO of North Atlanta Primary Care, PC, says he believes the recent presidential election holds important ramifications for our current healthcare system.
“For years, I’ve said that regardless of who’s running the show in Washington, managed care would probably never go away. Now, all bets are off. I think it’s possible that Donald Trump could tear up healthcare as we know it and move us away from the current system,” he said. “The question is, how will he actually accomplish that?”
While he believes in an open market for healthcare insurance, Bat feels that the Affordable Care Act has ended up doing exactly
the opposite of what it was intended to do and that rising costs are beyond what the average American can afford. Ultimately, he feels that the future of healthcare lies in restoring the physician-patient relationship as the very core of the way care is delivered to every citizen.
“Our current protocol determines how long patients have to wait for treatment and limits how physicians evaluate their patients and prescribe treatment. We’re forced to deliver care that is determined by a government-based treatment plan rather than on what we know the individual patient needs. Additionally, most physicians go into medicine to actually be doctors, but they end up frustrated with the system that governs the way they deliver care,” he said. “The current administration says there are no other alternatives. But we need to go back to a world where a doctor is a doctor and a patient is a patient. If we don’t find a way to create a physician-patient-centric system to reward physicians for working hard and patients for taking care of themselves, we all lose.”
Patient-centered doctors to usher in new age of healthcare
James Sams, M.D. and CEO of Privia Medical Group Georgia also believes that the doctor-patient relationship will move to the forefront of how healthcare is managed in the future.
“I’m very excited and optimistic about the profession of medicine. I think the next Golden Age of Medicine is in front of us and within our grasp,” he said. “And I believe it will be ushered in by physicians who are truly capable of being patient-centered.”
Sams feels that physicians are faced with making an important choice right now that will determine their future and their success.
“In my opinion, the future value in practicing medicine, both professionally and economically, will be given to physicians who make the choice to be patient-centered,” he said. “Achieving better outcomes at lower costs will be their focus, thereby unlocking this new value.”
Sams adds that patient-centered physicians will always keep in mind that their greatest responsibility is to their patients.
“If we prescribe care that our patients cannot afford, we’re not being their advocates or doing them a service,” he said.
Social Media and Healthcare
Just about everyone in America, from children to seniors, uses some form of social media. So it’s not surprising that social media has changed the way that people seek out information. Social media has become a powerful marketing tool and one that will likely continue to influence decision-making, including the choices people make regarding their health.
Here are five interesting statistics that show how social media has impacted the healthcare system in America:
- Forty-one percent of people said social media would affect their choice of a specific doctor, hospital, or medical practice. (source: Demi & Cooper Advertising and DC Interactive Group)
- Sixty percent of physicians report that one of their most popular activities on social media is following what colleagues are sharing and discussing. (source: Health Care Communication)
- Parents are more likely to seek medical answers online: 22% use Facebook and 20% use YouTube. Of non-parents, 14% use Facebook and 12% use YouTube to search for health care related topics. (source: Mashable)
- Sixty percent of doctors say social media improves the quality of care delivered to patients. (source: Demi & Cooper Advertising and DC Interactive Group)
- Thirty percent of adults are likely to share information about their health on social media sites with other patients, 47% with doctors, 43% with hospitals, 38% with a health insurance company and 32% with a drug company. (source: Fluency Media)