The e-opportunity

In Business Class, Connecting to Communicate, social media on July 28, 2010 at 7:02 am

What do you call it when three-quarters of your potential customers want something, but only 4 percent get it?

 In most industries, it’s called opportunity. In the case of electronic communications in the field of health care, it’s a dilemma. But it’s a dilemma we all should examine.

A few years ago, a Harris Poll survey revealed that  74 percent of adults would like to use e-mail to communicate with their doctors, but only 4 percent had physicians who offered that service. A similar gap existed — 77 percent vs. 4 percent — between the percentage of people who would like to receive reminders about physician appointments via e-mail and those who were receiving them.

In fact, in question after question — about access to electronic medical records, scheduling physician visits, receiving test results via e-mail, and more — adults overwhelmingly said they’d like to be more connected to their doctors via e-mail and the Internet.

 But few of us have seen any progress on this front.

Of course, the world of health care presents plenty of legitimate hurdles to such connectivity, including privacy and security. And that forms the heart of the dilemma: Physicians, practices and health care organizations generally say that, for those reasons, they can’t engage in e-communications with their patients. But some physicians do, if only on such small matters as appointment reminders. Others go further, by providing Web sites with health tips and wellness information or offering online appointment scheduling.

 In other words, though an overwhelming number of physicians say something is impossible, a small percentage is making it possible.

 Why would that matter? Because more than half of the respondents to that same Harris Poll said their decision about choosing a physician would take into account whether or not a doctor uses e-communications.

 Anybody see an opportunity for tech-friendly physicians?

 But what about the rest of us, in other industries and professions? We all should be asking ourselves: What is it that my customers want that my industry says is impossible? And how can the evolving world of social media help me deliver added benefits to my customers?

 You don’t need a national poll to tell you that answering that question and providing that wanted benefit will boost your bottom line.

  1. With the advent of email, I was provided a modem and internet connection that made it possible to connect with church members and improve my pastoral work in many ways. It’s curious that there’s such a difference between the culture of church and the culture of medicine. Churches encourage access to pastors, while medical offices limit access to doctors, and I’m not sure why.

    I suspect many doctors are already feeling their time is overtaxed and can’t imagine taking additional time, not compensated by insurance, exchanging email with patients. But then, every pastor I know also feels a constant time crunch. We just believe that the more and better we communicate, the more effective we’ll be. I hope that’s true! And it makes me wonder, are doctors making themselves less effective in their support of health and healing because of the economics of medicine? If so, what is the practice of medicine for? Or has the practice of medicine simply become the business of medicine?

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