Implementing Internet Alternatives
In the meantime, there is a current and ongoing need to support patients who are unable to utilize online options. Yul D. Ejnes, MD, MACP, a practicing general internist at Coastal Medical Inc. in Rhode Island and a clinical associate professor of medicine at the Alpert Medical School of Brown University says his practice encourages the use of electronic communication but also offers alternatives.
Popular on our site: Health IT creates lose-lose situation for physicians
There are times when Ejnes would like his patients to be able to learn more about their condition, for example. While he can refer some to online resources, he realizes that others would not be able to go that route. “If a patient doesn’t have internet access that’s reliable,” he says, “then we’re usually able to find printed materials or print off the web page in the office and hand them things to take home.”
Similarly, when treating overweight patients, his conversations include questions about access to the internet and the types of devices available. Based on that dialog, he can determine whether calorie tracking apps such as MyFitnessPal or Lose It! may be a good fit or whether an option like Weight Watchers would be a more suitable tool.
It is also important to remember that this a bigger issue than access alone. “I don’t think it’s limited to who has the technology and resources versus who doesn’t,” Ejnes says. “It is a matter of who uses it and who does not.” After all, there are plenty who can use a tool like an online patient portal but choose not to.
“Don’t make critical functions for individual patient care as well as the practice contingent on people having electronic access,” he recommends, and communication methods such as phone or mail should not be ignored. “I think what’s very important is that until we’re convinced we know for a fact that patients have access, are using the access, and prefer to use the access, we shouldn’t abandon the pre-portal methods.”
Paul Nicolaus is a freelance writer specializing in health and medicine. Learn more at www.nicolauswriting.com.