The future of outpatient care: Doctors must come to terms with the popularization of medicine

Data, facts and instruments on the German health system

What it’s all about

General practitioners and specialists are still unfamiliar with the Internet knowledge of their patients on health issues, but this must change in the future in order to communicate in a targeted manner.

Development instead of trend

The use of health information, whether distributed via print media, television or digitally, is now a perfectly natural part of everyday life. The available offer is nearly boundless and who looks for health-referred explanations, references and recommendations, becomes also fündig. So it’s no wonder that an ever-increasing proportion of the population is taking advantage of these opportunities. Those who can’t or don’t want to do their own research ask third parties for help.

Thus, the popularization of medicine is already no longer a trend, but an established and irreversible development.

No area is exempt from this. Even information that, like prescription drugs, is formally accessible only to specialists is now openly discussed in patient forums.

Option diversity

Added to this is the possibility of using devices such as fitness trackers and sensors to collect health data oneself, without the support of a doctor, to determine one’s status, and to monitor one’s own body and its functions. It is even possible to order blood tests online and carry them out at home on one’s own initiative, including subsequent analysis and recommendations for action. All in all, two central developments have met and combined: an intense interest in health on the part of the population and a level of technical development that makes it possible to meet this demand in the simplest way, at any time and at low cost.

Doctors block (still)

However, most physicians react defensively to this development of health awareness, which in principle is to be evaluated positively.

Two thirds of the physicians place the negative aspects of this information acquisition in the foreground, block discussions about the Internet knowledge of the patients and to even determined vital data, entrench themselves behind unresolved questions of the quality assurance, validation and data security or refer to missing account possibilities.

Physicians as part of the problem

What is not taken into account here is that a large number of physicians themselves have contributed to patients seeking alternative information channels due to their low willingness to provide information:

Currently, medical practices use on average just 46% of the regulations and tools necessary for adherence-centered practice management. The resulting patient satisfaction scores meet only 39% of the requirements.

Changes are inevitable

However, the current defensive attitude will not be sustained in the long run:

Four years ago, just under 15% of patients signaled their willingness to change their primary care physician if they continued to be dissatisfied with him or her; today, more than fifty percent are already expressing this willingness.

In the same way that practice teams lose patients on a massive scale due to poor organization, in the future businesses that fail to meet their patients‘ communication and care needs will have a negative practice visitor balance. Only physicians who begin to adapt to the massive change in their practice today can benefit from the start.