No one can deny that the time doctors spend face-to-face with patients is important. The length of time we can devote to patients has been linked patient AND physician satisfaction, more appropriate prescribing practices, and even reduced risk of malpractice claims. For many patients and doctors, the average consultation time of 21.07 minutes just doesn’t seem like enough time to ensure good quality health care. It is certainly too short to truly promote health literacy. Even if it seems challenging, it’s obvious that healthcare providers need to find ways to increase the time spent with patients if we want them to have the best outcomes, and leave satisfied with our level of care. Below we explore a few ways to do just that.
Having members of your staff perform functions that don’t require a doctor – such as information gathering or basic diagnostic tests – frees you up to spend more time actually addressing a patient’s main concerns. If your nurses or medical assistants can take care of filling out the EHR, you and your patient can spend more time speaking face to face, without a computer monitor in the middle. This allows for a more flexible conversation and potentially uncovers more information than can be had during a rushed, questionnaire driven, encounter.
Choose an Easy To Use EHR
Not all EHRs are created equal. Because the time and cost of adopting an EHR is significant, it’s important to select one that makes life easier, rather than harder. The more time spent filling out a patient’s electronic health record, the less time you spend actually engaging with them. It is of great importance that the patent feels listened to and as an added bonus, ensures that you don’t miss anything diagnostically important. There are so many options for digital EHRs on the market today, it can be difficult to know which one to use. Do your homework, and try out the user interfaces before implementing. Make sure to ask questions when selecting an EHR to ensure you pick one that will maximize both data management efficiency and patient face time.
Maximize Face Time
Even if you can’t increase the number of minutes spent with each patient, make the most out of your time together. Do this by engaging the patient and ensuring they understand the role they hold in their healthcare. Although you may feel pulled to speak non-stop, make sure the patient feels they have space to ask questions (even when they may seem off topic). Check in about their level of understanding.
We can help our patients increase their health literacy by employing visual aids, using easy to understand words, reiterating important points, and reviewing any written material you send home with the patient. For many patients, the time they spend in your office will be the full extent of their healthcare experience, so it’s crucial to make each moment count.