Frederik Brabant MD, CMIO at Nuance Communications asks can technology put the art back into medicine?

Fred Brabrant, Nuance
Fred Brabrant, Nuance

“The practice of medicine is an art, not a trade; a calling, not a business; a calling in which your heart will be exercised equally with your head. The practice of medicine is an art, based on science.”

While profound, the words of Sir William Osler, recognized to be the ‘father of modern medicine’, may not be the first to spring to patients’ minds when battling to get an appointment with their GP or hearing the news that their operation has been cancelled again.

But in the midst of cutbacks in the NHS, there is a determination to put the art back into medicine and the patient where they should be – at the heart of care. Today, technology is playing a key role at reinvigorating the relationship between patients and clinicians. But there is balance that needs to be maintained according to a recent survey entitled Healthcare from the Patient Perspective. It found that while patients value technology, it should not be at the expense of time and engagement with clinicians.

The survey, which collected datafrom 3,000 respondents across U.S., UK and Germany, found that while 97% of patients are comfortable with technology in healthcare, the clinician-patient relationship plays a primary role in the overall patient experience and keeping people satisfied and invested in their health.

The survey revealed the importance of clinicians establishing a personal connection with patients through eye contact, a handshake, a one to one conversation and privacy in the exam room.

In the Nuance Communications-commissioned study, virtually all patients report they are comfortable with their clinician using technology during a consultation and 58 percent believe this technology positively impacts their overall experience, especially when used collaboratively to educate or explain.

At the heart of the visit, patients agree on the top things clinicians cannot ignore when it comes to quality medical care. For instance, 73 percent stated “time for discussion,” and 66 percent said “verbal communication of specific recommendations.”

The research also revealed another interesting point. While medical secretaries may alleviate the time and documentation challenges of entering data into Electronic Patient Records, it may come at a cost. In this survey, 95 percent of patients reported they are completely honest with their clinicians today, but they have concerns over privacy. Therefore, data capture systems that preserve privacy and the clinician-patient relationship while enabling providers to increase productivity and keep their focus and eyes on the patient – like speech recognition – are likely to support a better patient experience.

A better patient experience could also be realized if doctors had more time. According to this survey, more than a third of patients spend less than 10 minutes with their clinician during an average visit. This leaves both patients and clinicians tight on time, with 40 percent of patients feeling rushed during appointments.

To help counter the limited time with their clinicians, patients are seeking information and embracing technology outside of the doctor’s office to come to appointments prepared. Approximately 80 percent of patients feel engaged in their own health, with 68 percent of patients bring a list of questions to each doctor’s consult, 39 percent have checked WebMD or another online source in advance and

20 percent bring personal health data from outside monitors.

This survey demonstrates that patients are comfortable with the growing role health IT is playing in their care experience when it is in a supporting role. Nuance commissioned the “Healthcare from the Patient Perspective”survey to ensure that clinicians, providers and healthcare technology developers understand the patients’ perspective on physicians’ use of health IT when balanced with the art of medicine; a philosophy close to Sir William Osler’s heart.