How should doctors market themselves in the age of patient empowerment?

In the age of Patient Empowerment and the trend towards patient consumerism, it’s important for doctors to market themselves to patients.  Patients are making informed decisions about who they see, and who they trust, which is a good thing for healthcare.  I believe strongly in patient empowerment and participatory medicine.  As I’ve said before, the age of paternalistic medicine is over.

Many physicians like to eschew the idea that they are actually conducting business, let alone try to market themselves.  A number like to pretend that medicine and business have nothing to do with each other, and that business pressures can only serve to pervert medicine.

That’s BS.  Medicine is big business, and natural market forces should create pressure to provide a better product.  That’s good, not bad.  We need a better product.

Patients should be seen as customers, because they are.  We often forget that in our third party payer system it’s the patient and not just the insurance company that is our customer.  That leads to the kind of crappy customer service that patients get in our healthcare system: long wait times, short visits, repetitive questioning, lack of patient-centric care, etc.  If we’d been focused on the patient as our primary customer (instead of the insurance company) for the past 3 decades, we would have developed a much better customer service.

At least we are forced to focus on it now, with patients having become engaged consumers.  To that end, I thought this was a great article about how the modern, patient-centric medical practice can market itself.  

This was especially interesting to me, as my patient-centric, patient-empowerment focused healthcare startup is working on developing our marketing strategy.

Got ideas for us?


EHRs and Health Information Exchange: Will increased access decrease costs?

The federal dollars in the HITECH act, and much of the enthusiasm for new innovation in the healthcare IT space is predicated on the assumption that better access to information will result in better and cheaper care.  Avoiding unnecessary duplicated studies, especially, expensive medical imaging, is one way that’s supposed to happen.

As a medical imaging specialist, I can attest to the fact that unnecessary and wasteful imaging tests get ordered all the time, at significant cost.  It see it many times a day, and I’m a believer in the power of increased access to health records.

Two articles have recently been published in the medical literature that aim to test this assumption.  And the results seem to be in conflict.  The first article, published in the Journal of Health Affairs, examined access to medical imaging and results, and found that physicians with electronic access were actually more likely to order additional imaging tests.  The second article, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, found that doctors ordered 49% fewer lab tests after the introduction of an electronic health information exchange (HIE).

So, what are we to believe?  I’ll try to make some sense of this.

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