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"You have turned my life around"
 

I am 87 years old, with a problem of the prostate gland. Before I met Dr. Baum, I went to the bathroom every 30-60 minutes. After Dr. Baum's treatment on my prostate, I go only 5 times per day and only 1 time at night! You turned my life around. I am so very grateful!

-Sidney Daigle


I want to thank you for your due diligence. You saved my life. I highly recommend you!

-Dwight Bastian


Thank you Dr. Baum! Because of you I'm back in the "rodeo"!

-Gerald Wallace

 


In the past five years we have seen a series of trends regarding the Internet. In 1995 nearly every business and practice wanted to be on the Internet. Practices took whatever print material they had, scanned it and put it on the Internet. This was referred to as static, outdated information that wasn't very useful for the visitor of the Web site. 1997 was the era of animation. If it changed colors, flipped, or flashed we wanted to add that to the Web page. However, the eye candy didn't improve the content and users did not stay on the page or rarely returned. In 1999 was the beginning of the transactional era where visitors were beginning to do business on the Internet. Visitors felt secure giving their credit card number and started to share confidential information on the Internet. Today, we are entering the era of interactive communication with our patients. Now patient will be able to see the doctor and the doctor will be able to interact with the patient in a secure and confidential fashion.

My practice went through these stages from static Web pages to multimedia pages and now to interactive pages. Today we have technology that will allow us to enhance our communication with our patients. In this article I will discuss implementing techniques using the Internet to enhance patient communications and improve the care delivery for our patients without changing the way physicians and office staff function.

It is now possible to use the Internet to create an electronic physician-patient interface (ePPi) which actively connects patients with their doctors in a secure and confidential fashion.

By using an interactive program, Patients will have the ability to:

  • reach a secure, confidential , interactive portal to the medical practice without having to access a third party
  • request an appointment with the practice from their computer in their home or office without seeing other names on the schedule
  • request prescription renewals at any time
  • ask questions to the doctor, nurse, or other staff members
  • receive information customized to their diagnosis, medications, or other healthcare needs
  • receive lab and x-ray reports in a timely fashion

The program, PracticePoint Connect by iMcKesson, was able to use my existing Web page created by HealthCommunities.com. The content was from the original Web page and the connectivity was provided by iMcKesson.

Advantages:
Everyone of us have experienced patients arriving in the office with a briefcase full of several pounds of information that they have downloaded from the computer. Much of this information is from nonreplicable sources, is outdated, andor inaccurate. By using the Internet, patients are asked if they have access to the Internet when they make an appointment, and told to log onto the practice Web site and obtain information on their urologic condition prior to their visit to the office. Now the patients can receive reliable medical information and the doctors do not take valuable clinical time sifting through reams of online content downloaded by the patient. Ultimately, this puts the physician back in control of the educational material given to the patient.

The online service allows patients to submit questions to the doctor and have them answered in a timely fashion by either the doctor or the nurse. Although we usually end every conversation with a patient, "Do you have any additional questions?" and we try and answer them, nearly every patient thinks of a question after they are eyeball to eyeball with the doctor. Now the patient can use the Internet to ask a question and avoid the time-consuming phone tag that occurs when a patient calls back with another question(s). This has been a real plus for my nurse and my staff and has reduced the number of phone calls and disruptions in the office. Now the triage nurse can relax and give excellent service when responding to online requests.

These programs also offer your practice the opportunity to connect you're your Internet patients using narrow- and broadcasts. Broadcasts are messages that can be sent to the entire Internet patient population. Narrowcasts are messages that can be selected or filtered to a certain patient population based on diagnosis, age, gender, procedures, medications, or health interests. For example, there was a recall on phenylpropanolamime and all of the patients with access to the Internet who were on this medication were contacted with a single click on the computer to call for an alternate prescription. Finally, one additional advantage is that when patients log-in to their own page, they do not utilize any other costly practice resources.

Security Issues
Of course patients and doctors are concerned about the security of using the Internet. The program consists of a closed-circuit communication using encryption software which preserves the confidentiality of questions and answers. Each patient receives a password or code and must enter their user name and code before having access to their Web page. The standard e-mail program is only used to notify patients that new information has been added to their Web page and it is never used for confidential communication.

Results
I surveyed my existing patients and found that nearly 20% have access to the Internet and use it on a regular basis. Because many of my patients are more than 50 years of age, I requested a larger font size (14 point) in order to accommodate the visual needs of my patients. The vendor was easily able to make this adjustment when formatting the content.

The response from the patients has been very favorable. The most utilized component is the ability to submit a question to the doctor online and receive a timely response. Next is the ability to obtain prescription refills and make an appointment. Patients comment on the ability to feel more connected to the practice, more in control of their health care, and are impressed that we offer "state of the art technology."

As a result of this interactive technology we are able provide better access to our patients, enhance communication with our patients, create a unique service that differentiates our practice from those in the community, and finally, to stream our operations and to obtain an improvement in the efficiency of the practice.

Let's never lose site of the fact that the second most (the first is excessive waiting for the doctor) common complaint patients have with their healthcare provider is not having their questions answered or not enough time spent with the physician. Using interactive technology is a means to solving that problem by making us more available to our patients. I don't see a future where the Internet will replace the physician but where the Internet will assist the physician and making the practice high touch as well as high tech.