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In healthcare practice today, the role of the patient and healthcare provider is no longer black and white. Easy access to the internet and social media means patients now have a wealth of information at their fingertips. Patients are seeking a more active role in their coordination of care. But what does this mean for healthcare providers - do more informed patients equate to greater healthcare outcomes? And what can practitioners do to better support patients throughout the healthcare journey? We caught up with the Barco Visionary Panel to get their views on the topic of patient empowerment:
Olivier Vanovermeire (Head of Radiology at AZ Groeninge, Belgium): I think they absolutely want it. With more access to information, patients are becoming more in tune with their healthcare activities. This information needs to be available throughout the entire healthcare journey, in the pre-diagnosis, bedside and post-discharge stages. Patients want to be able to keep track of their health status. But further to clinical information, patients want to be informed on every aspect of the healthcare process. They want to know about costs and processes. They want to be involved.
Barco: Who delivers this information - is there a role for a wider group of healthcare practitioners to have direct contact with patients, including radiologists?
Erik R. Ranschaert (Radiologist at Jeroen Bosch, The Netherlands): Patients receive better care the more specialists are engaged, but it’s not only the responsibility of the treating physician. Patients want to be kept informed throughout every interaction. For radiologists, there’s an opportunity for us to get out from behind the workstation and engage with patients directly. We also need to consider when reports become accessible to patients. We need to rethink the way we communicate with patients, not just directly but in written reports also.
Barco: Does there need to be any up skilling of radiologists in this case?
Erik: Yes, additional training around patient interaction and communication is essential. We don’t see patients everyday, so training to support these interactions is important.I also think healthcare providers should receive additional training in the use of social media. Most of us are already using social media, both in a personal and professional capacity, but I think more training in this area would be beneficial, especially around engaging with patients and protecting our personal data.
Barco: What impact is social media having on the delivery of healthcare – both for healthcare practitioners and patients?
Ketan Thanki (Key Account Manager for Barco Healthcare): Social media is becoming an important exchange of experience. Patients are contacting people with similar diseases, they’re sharing knowledge and they’re learning from each other’s experience. I think that’s where the trend is going – more transparency and visibility in healthcare. A lot of the time, patients will arrive in the hospital or clinician’s room well versed on their chronic conditions. With this background knowledge in hand, patients can play a significant role in contributing to their own treatment plan. This can be helpful for both the patient and the healthcare practitioner.
Erik: Social media is growing rapidly and patients are using these platforms as a source of medical information. Hospitals need to be active on these platforms in order to engage with patients and support them with accessing the right information.
Barco: How important is patient satisfaction, and is this changing?
Ulrich Brüll (Barco’s Market Director for Interactive Patient Care): Patient satisfaction is becoming a key performance indicator for hospitals. Patients are informing themselves on what to expect before they arrive. They’re researching online and engaging in social media. Patients are then using these same platforms to update others on their experience. Measuring satisfaction goes beyond healthcare treatment. It takes into account the food, the staff, the facilities and the quality of service. The way the patient is treated on a whole is what matters, and this is what determines satisfaction.
Barco: What different channels can be used to drive empowerment and education?
Ketan: Online patient groups are key for driving patient empowerment, but from a hospital’s perspective, these groups can be difficult to manage when patients are spread across various hospitals and locations. More thought needs to go into how information and insight from these groups can be collected and organized efficiently.
Ulrich: Interactive patient care systems for bedside terminals are another way to enhance the patient experience and encourage patient involvement in their treatment plan. These systems provide educational materials and resources specific to the patient’s condition. Education shouldn’t stop at discharge though, suitable post-discharge care should also be provided to support the treatment process.
Erik: As healthcare providers, we need to be mindful of our communication and engagement techniques. Keeping patients informed is fundamental for driving patient empowerment and education. We should also make better use of social media as a new and effective communications tool. Greater healthcare outcomes can only be achieved when all participants in the healthcare journey are fully engaged.