Will EHR Adoption Help or Hurt Patient Experience? A Physician Practice Marketing Challenge for Tablet Computers.
Electronic Medical Records

EHR: Barrier or Benefit?

It’s a little frightening that in physician practice marketing we often discover more examples of “poor” patient experience than “good” ones. In fairness, the good stuff rarely gets the spotlight that it deserves, and the negative examples are often magnified.

The doctor-patient relationship is often strained, and positive, personal relationships—among patient, provider and staff—is often deteriorating. But if there is a silver lining, it is that a valuable training opportunity is revealed in finding and fixing the bad stuff. These opportunities are reactive and not proactive.

One of the continuing challenges for medical practice marketing is to proactively introduce the means to enhance productivity—with Electronic Health Record technology, for example—and to maintain or even improve the patient experience. (By the way, all of this applies to institutional patient encounters and hospital marketing also.)

The EHR concern was at the center of this blog post at Software Advice titled: Adoption of the iPad is Transforming the Healthcare Landscape. It begins with this story:

“A couple years ago, I was referred to a specialist by my family physician. When I visited the specialist, I noticed he was using an electronic health record on a desktop computer in the examination room. Throughout the entire visit the specialist stared at the computer screen, not even glancing up when I inquired about my ailment.

“On a follow-up visit to my family physician I told him about the impersonal experience and asked why he had yet to digitize his patient health records. He explained that he did not want to jeopardize the relationships he had worked so hard to build over the years and generations.

“My family doctor went on to explain how the lack of mobility, cumbersome nature and slow speeds of current EHR systems and computing hardware put a barrier between him and the patient. It was a barrier he was afraid would erode the doctor-patient relationship, making him just as impersonal as the specialist.”

Did you recognize that lack of eye contact, and the red flag words such as “impersonal,” “barrier,” and “erode?” This post makes some important observations about the practical challenges to physicians and other healthcare providers regarding current EHR technology.

As we see it, part of this marketing problem is a hardware/software issue. To be less intrusive and less of a barrier, the technology sector will need to adapt their products to the direct use of tablet computers, such as the iPad or others.

If the hardware is less cumbersome, and the software is easy to use, there is a proactive marketing opportunity for the direct interaction between provider and patient to be more direct and positive.

Patient relationships, and the attitudes that patients hold toward their physicians, have a sizable impact on the reputation of the provider practice, the medical group or the hospital. Patient experiences are increasingly shared through social media, and online ratings and negative comments get immediate exposure that can damage the brand of the business instantly and profoundly.

Tablet-friendly Electronic Health Record systems need to be a significant design issue for the software/hardware industry. And for healthcare marketing, it can be an important tool for productivity, outcomes and the patient experience.

Let us know what you think about this issue. In your office, is EHR a barrier or a benefit?

Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer at Healthcare Success
Stewart Gandolf, MBA, is Chief Executive Officer of Healthcare Success, one of the nation's leading healthcare and digital marketing agencies. Over the past 20 years, Stewart has marketed and consulted for over 1,000 healthcare clients, ranging from practices and hospitals to multi-billion dollar corporations. A frequent speaker, Stewart has shared his expertise at over 200 venues nationwide. As an author and expert resource, Stewart has also written for many leading industry publications, including the 21,000 subscriber Healthcare Success Insight blog. Stewart also co-authored, "Cash-Pay Healthcare: Start, Grow & Perfect Your Cash-Pay Healthcare Business." Stewart began his career with leading advertising agencies, including J. Walter Thompson, where he marketed Fortune 500 clients such as Wells Fargo and Bally's Total Fitness.

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