Using technology to impact patient quality of life
When patients seek access to a doctor, it is almost always for 1 simple reason: to get better. That’s usually where the simplicity ends. What does “getting better” mean to an individual patient? For some, it may mean finding a cure to their ailment, while for others it may mean being able to get out of bed in the morning to have breakfast with their families. Whatever the definition, getting better means improving a patient’s quality of life, i.e. his/her “standard of health, comfort, and happiness” (ref: Google dictionary).
As electronic and other nontraditional health services expand, access is also expanding, and patients are becoming more actively involved in their healthcare. What was once a passive system of paternalistic care delivery has now become a world of shared decision-making and patient directed care. As providers of these services, we presume these services result in a positive impact on patient’s lives – how could it not? After all, patients are now able to know more about their healthcare, more easily access their own data, and interact with world-renowned physicians. While improving access, these services may also improve quality of care, and reduce the cost of health care. However, are we actually helping our patients achieve their goal of getting better (whatever that may mean)? In other words, how do these expanding services impact patient’s quality of life?
At Grand Rounds, we are starting to work on answering these types of questions. Through our Office Visit and Expert Opinion services, we offer patients access to top quality local physicians and remote experts. Our mission is centered on giving patients the tools they need to improve their health care, and results in improving each patient’s quality of life. As we expand our patient reach, we have begun spending numerous hours on understanding the impact of our work on patient’s – not just in terms of dollars saved (see Figure 1), but also in terms of if we are truly achieving an improved quality of life. By introducing metrics into our current and ongoing follow-up processes, we have started to gain insight into these previously untouched areas. We are starting to learn how the technology that allows us to improve access to high quality care can, for example, decrease the likelihood a woman has to undergo a Cesarean section, thus avoiding an unnecessary surgery and the potential complications associated with it (see Figure 2). We now truly find ourselves using technology to impact patient quality of life.