Low-income patients need more health infoNews added by Benefits Pro on October 25, 2013

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By Dan Cook

More robust communications between patients and medical providers is among the top objectives of most strategies for improving health care in the United States. But just as physicians, clinics and hospitals lagged the rest of the nation in adopting electronic medical recordkeeping practices, they also are behind in accepting alternative forms of communicating with patients.

A study by Blue Shield of California Foundation reveals how wide this communications chasm remains with low-income residents of California. This group in general includes high-cost users of the health care system because their medical conditions are often not addressed in a timely fashion, something improved communications is proven to address.

The survey results underscored the importance of a strong patient-provider relationship, one that could be easily enhanced via stronger and more flexible means of communications.

Low-income patients who said they had a strong bond with their provider rated their quality of care much more positively than those who said they had no such bond. They felt they were heard by the provider and, as a result, had more confidence in their ability to participate in making a medical decision.

“We must bring patients into the conversation if we want to transform health care in California and across the country,” said Peter Long, president and CEO of Blue Shield of California Foundation. “The findings of this research make clear why communication is so important and provide a roadmap to better engage patients as our health system continues to evolve.”

Among the nuggets to emerge from the study:
  • 28 percent reported having all the easily comprehensible health information they need to make good decisions about their care. The other 72 percent said they didn’t have it.
  • Nearly 40 percent rely more on media and the internet when they have health questions or concerns than they do on their medical providers.
  • 70 percent of low-income Californians with email or cell phone texting capabilities are interested in using them to communicate with their providers. But a very low percentage report being able to do so.
  • 87 percent of those who do communicate electronically say it’s very useful.
“This study’s findings indicate ample room for healthcare facilities to improve the ways in which patients obtain and act upon information and communicate with their providers,” the researchers reported. “And it finds that, when such efforts are present, they hold forth the prospect of sharply improved patient-provider relationships, a crucial milestone on the road to successful patient engagement.”

Originally published on BenefitsPro.com
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