MUSING – The Communication Barrier
In the classic 1967 film, Cool Hand Luke, the captain utters the immortal words, “What we have here is a failure to communicate”, having just lashed the recalcitrant prisoner (Paul Newman) to within an inch of his life. Unfortunately, these words apply all too well as to how healthcare institutions communicate with patients and consumers.
Healthcare organizations (hospitals, clinics, insurance companies, and doctors) communicate in outdated mediums versus the average American, communicating primarily with written correspondence and the telephone. Healthcare consumers strongly prefer to communicate using emails and texts. Texting as a form of communication didn’t even exist ten years ago and yet people send more text messages than make phone calls every day.
The dominant reason for a preference of digital communications (texts and emails) is that the average American leads a very busy life and wants to communicate on their own schedule, be it at ten o’clock in the morning or at midnight.
The primary barrier for healthcare entities to communicate in a medium that their patients prefer has been one of security. HIPAA requires secure, private communications with patients. Until recently, this was a formidable task when dealing with something so open as email or texts. Recent advances in secure communication technologies now easily allow healthcare systems to communicate via text and emails to their patients and consumers in a completely secure environment. Patients will now be able to receive important healthcare communications like appointment confirmations, clinic consultations, discharge instructions, and prescription refills electronically, at their convenience.