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High Tech Help for Highly Personal Patient Care

Technology is an intimate part of how we live our lives, particularly in the way we are increasingly able to provide patient care.
For example, Kaiser Permanente Colorado has an electronic prescribing system which is linked to digitized pharmacy and medical records and that identifies patients who do not pick up or refill needed prescriptions.  A recent study indicates that patients who receive care in such integrated health care systems more often collect their new prescriptions for diabetes, cholesterol and high blood pressure medications than do people who receive care in a non-integrated system.
These tools can be very helpful, especially when used in an integrated fashion.  Their effectiveness is often grounded in a very personal approach to patient care.  While monitoring can provide valuable information and help health care professionals follow up with patients, it is the personal approach to patient care on the front end that is most significant.  
Patients who’ve recently had a significant medical procedure performed may be overwhelmed or in denial about a health issue, and may not absorb the message about the importance of medications right away.  In addition to talking to patients about long-term health goals, and explaining how medications can allow proper healing and prevent future crises, health care professionals who work directly with patients can focus their initial attention on understanding and addressing potential obstacles to their patients’ “treatment follow through.”  This is particularly true for the work of physicians assistants.
High tech tools that can help keep the patients in contact with the health system reinforce the needs for these medications in the months after a specific medical event.
At Kaiser, clinical pharmacy specialists help accomplish this by managing patient medications and helping patients deal with side effects, including tweaking their regimens if necessary to promote better adherence.  They are also able to access an online pharmacy and get refills mailed to patients without a charge.
While impressive, this electronic system depends on developing patient trust at the beginning; patients need to be comfortable telling the health care professionals the truth about their own self care.
What suggestions do you have for ways to integrate more personal approaches to patient care and more high tech tools?
Sources: Wall Street Journal: Health Blog; Journal of General Internal Medicine

[image by William Hook]

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