As a young medical student I was naive about many things but full of hope and expectations. I am still naïve about many things, however I have also learned a great deal in my 30 some years of practice. There is very much about being a successful Doctor that comes from the on the job experience. By successful, I mean satisfied that I am doing the best that I can humanly do for my patients
Much of what I have had to learn has been driven by technology and science. As the pace of advancement has accelerated so has our need to stay current with new technologies. Although I still consider myself “young” when I first started practising, MRIs, angioplasties and monoclonal antibodies didn’t exist. There was no internet. Never would we have imagined that we could sequence the human genome. Today medical research moves at terabyte speeds. Pharmaceuticals are coming out more quickly and better targeted than ever before. Yes it’s difficult to keep up, but we do our best.
Much of what patients have come to expect over the last 30 years has been driven by information accessibility. The public is older (and getting older) and wiser thanks to the internet. Patients are better informed (not all of them) and have higher expectations than ever before. News, email, targeted advertising, more leisure time, portability and digital health technologies are all contributing to a population of patients that have higher expectations than ever.
Why am I writing about this? Well, you found this blog in ezReferral; an application that I conceived and funded because one of my patients died after her referral from the ER wasn’t dealt with. Why not? The fax machine it was sent to was unattended while the specialist was on extended leave.
Today, we all race out to get the latest Apple phones, drive cars with GPS systems, have lane side warning systems, fly in aircraft that are safer than ever, live in wireless worlds, talk to our houses, talk to our phones and yet the majority of sensitive medical information that is used in sending referrals is facilitated through the ancient fax machine. Why isn’t this part of the medical world keeping up?
More than a few patients have asked me: “If I can track the book I’ve ordered from Amazon, why can’t I track the status of my own referral appointmentwith the specialist?”
So, how do we manage patient expectations? About referrals or about anything? As much for me as for you I will try to write about my insights and experiences and try to organize my thoughts over the coming months. I am no expert. I am no guru. I just trying to be a good family doctor like so many other family doctors you probably know. I want to share what I have learned. I hope it helps. One thing is clear: Patient engagement and expectation management is key to a satisfying practice. That will be my starting point.