Serving the home health, home care and hospice industry since 1999.

by Audrey Kinsella

Among the excellent keynote presentations delivered at last month's Partners Healthcare Connected Health Symposium, by physicians from a variety of technologically advanced hospitals, Dr. Adrienne Boissy, MD stood out, but not for the reason one might expect. She challenged a technology-oriented audience to make the human experience a priority.

A neurologist at the Cleveland Clinic, Dr. Boissey’s keynote was titled, "How to Disruptively Design the Human(e) Experience." She summoned clinicians to connect with patients instead of treating them in a clinical, disengaged way. Human beings, she noted, "are wired to want to connect." The growing popularity of online groups for patients not only points to the need to "transform the human experience," but also highlights today's patients' opinion of the personally disengaged clinician.

Clinicians are under pressure, Dr. Boissey acknowledged, to get more patients treated more quickly. Payer demands push clinicians to embrace a more "expedient" mode of care, often by providing technologies that give them more access to care. "More care is often seen as better care," she said.

The patient experience, however, is extremely personal. It is often a first-time, life-changing experience where a person is forced to redefine himself or herself as no longer being a contributor to society or even an ordinary person living life independently, but now a patient, often a needy one. This is where online patient groups can play a key role, especially for people newly assuming the role of patient.

Through these online groups, new patients can learn about handling daily reactions to their symptoms from other patients’ experiences with similar diseases and conditions. They can learn about other patients’ experiences with physicians and the nature of services that other people received from their doctors in their communities. This is more than just gossip, Dr. Boissey emphasized. It is peers exercising their own part in the widespread movement to demand greater clinician transparency.

Talk to me, listen to me
Communication that must be undertaken between physician and patient is absolutely key today, Dr. Boissey stressed. Information that patients glean from these online discussion groups helps them understand they may not be alone with the problems they have experienced with their healthcare delivery. For the most part, she said, complaints often focus on care being too oriented on technology use, hence her admonition "Less Time Clicking, More Time Caring."

She did not give in to despair, however, but encouraged her audience to see patients reporting less-than-expected care as an opportunity to learn exactly where and how to improve the care they give. She says physicians have to help patients in a way that is uniquely human or, as she put it, in a humane way. "This is the way services ought to be provided in medicine,” she concluded.

Right-sizing technology
How to deliver humane care? Not by eschewing technology altogether, but by knowing when it is used too much, both by clinicians and their patients. She offered a 21st century truism. "Engagement with a device is not necessarily engagement with one's health." Referring to studies on remote patient monitoring technologies, whether used to capture blood pressure, blood glucose, heart rate, or weight, Dr. Boissey declared, "Patients and clinicians are drowning in data, and they do not find meaning in what they are doing."

Patients want their clinicians to spend "Less Time Clicking, [and] More Time Caring." Real-time data capture does not "fix" things. Clinicians must use this data to fashion questions to verbally engage with their patients. Clinicians might ask a patient, for instance, how they fare at different times of day, about wanted or unwanted lifestyle changes, or anything to both gather verbal data and demonstrate caring. Such verbal exchanges are important and may very well help teach patients about their own responsibility to work harder to keep themselves well. These exchanges are superior to machines, Dr. Boissey contends, at engaging patients in a human, and humane, way.

Audrey Kinsella, MA, MS, is HCTR's telemedicine reporter. She has written on home telehealthcare and new technologies for home care service delivery for 20 years, in 6 books, multiple web sites, and more than 150 published articles. Audrey can be reached at or 828-348-5308.

©2017 by Rowan Consulting Associates, Inc., Colorado Springs, CO. All rights reserved. This article originally appeared in Tim Rowan's Home Care Technology Report. One copy may be printed for personal use; further reproduction by permission only.