When Data Outpaces Human Interaction

A few weeks ago, I accompanied my daughter when she had an emergency admission for appendicitis. As always, there was the waiting game for tests and results in the ED. Patients crave information when they are in crisis. Their minds swirl with questions including, what is wrong with me, is this serious, can (will) they help me, when will I get more information, what’s next, and can I trust them?

When Tech Gets Ahead of Humans

The patient portal is a wealth of information for consumers at home who want more information about lab results and appointment summaries. I believe that the timely flow of information is a vital part of the patient experience. But what happens when the patient gets the results before a provider is available to interpret, explain, and reassure?

My daughter is a psychologist, mother, wife, and savvy consumer of healthcare for herself and her family. When she saw her lab and CT results while still in the ED, she had ample time to both fret and research before the doctor appeared. The results pointed to appendicitis but there was an additional finding on the images that caused concern.

The doctor had been in and out of the room a few times before the final diagnosis and admission. In every encounter, he was kind, professional, and articulate. Everything about his demeanor built confidence until my daughter asked about the disconcerting notation in the CT scan. He said, “Huh. I’ve never heard of that. I have to Google it.” And right there in front of us, he googled the term and read to us from the screen. We had already done that. What we wanted to know was if it was contributing to her current pain and if it was going to be a problem in the future.

I don’t think any provider has all the answers, but I cringed when he told us he was Googling the term. Not a confidence-builder. He could have said, “I need to do a little more research on that, but for now, the main concern is your appendix, and here is what we plan to do about that.”

Don’t Forget Human Interaction

The speed of data is increasing daily, and the benefits far outweigh the pitfalls. But we cannot lose sight of the importance of human interaction. The human element provides reassurance and context. If the patient is to have immediate access to results, they should also be given context. For example, When the lab results indicate white blood cells are above normal, put it in context with an additional statement such as, “This often indicates the body is fighting infection.” How about a pop-up that says, “Your doctor, <name>, will be with you shortly to discuss your results and answer any questions you may have.” This ties the data back to the person(s) making key decisions.

Remember, healthcare is a human service. People caring for people. Is your staff providing care that creates a human connection? If not, contact Baird Group about Mystery Shopping – it’s never too late to create a great first impression that will last for a long time. Contact us today at (866) 686-7672 or info@baird-group.com. Or, Schedule a complimentary 30-minute consultation.

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