With emerging technologies promoting self-service portals to access medical information and other self-care practices, it seems the healthcare industry hopes to empower people to take control of their healthcare decisions and care. But that doesn’t necessarily mean patients must take the trip down the treatment lane alone. 

“So much of our lives are now assisted virtually, and on-demand, that going to the doctor when we’re sick feels like stepping back in time,” says Katelyn Smalley, adding that digital health is a welcome addition to healthcare. However, she also emphasizes the need for balance between technology and building an honest personal relationship with your healthcare provider. 

In the dermatological field, technology is a strategic tool for reducing turnaround times for test results, controlling overhead costs for clinics, and expanding access to care. It also reinforces the SHARE approach to decision-making in clinical encounters. 

If you’ve incorporated the SHARE model approach to bolster the patient experience with shared medical decisions, today’s digital technology is a natural fit for encouraging participation, assessing the diagnosis, and discussing the most preferred options. Here’s why: 

SEEK your patient’s participation.

Emerging patient-centered technologies broaden patient involvement in their treatment plans, and it reflects in how patients communicate with their healthcare provider. For instance, recent studies found that over half (51 percent) of consumers are likely to tell their doctors that they disagree with them. 

The onset of the 21st Century Cures Act and EMR technology equipped with custom self-service portals provide patients with essential information about their medical history. Access to this data drives patient involvement and prepares them for an in-depth discussion about their diagnosis and how to move forward. Essentially, the doctor needn’t lead the patient into a discussion about their diagnosis; the patient is already engaged.

HELP your patient explore and compare treatment options.

To make informed decisions about treatment options, seeing is believing. When patients can see the actual diagnosis while discussing their condition with a doctor, it bolsters better doctor-patient communication. 

When offered, 75 percent of patients will engage in a consultation geared to demystify the diagnostic process and provide information that empowers the patient. Partnering with a full-service digital dermatopathology lab like PathologyWatch enables 24/7 access to patient slides to add a new level of clarity to the discussion. 

ASSESS your patient’s values and preferences.

In some cases, particularly those associated with malignancy, reaching out to a specialist via remote consultation may also bolster the patient’s confidence in their doctor and encourage collaboration in treatment preferences. 

With digital slide imaging as part of the patient/provider consultation, your patient can express concerns, ask questions, and consider options while they see and hear from both doctors sharing encouraging and qualified support while addressing the patient’s preferences. 

REACH a decision with your patient.

A study out of the University of Washington School of Medicine found that almost all of us (90 percent) want to know the whole truth about the diagnosis of a serious illness. When you’ve created a comfortable, trusting environment to discuss a patient’s condition, it makes it easier for them to ask more questions about the risks of treatment options based on the digital slides of their lab results. 

EVALUATE your patient’s decision.

Many health conditions don’t have a clear best treatment option, so finding the right answer often requires the doctor and patient to work together. “Shared decision-making allows patients to engage in a deliberative, communicative process with their clinicians and be active participants in their care,” says Angie Fagerlin, chair of the department of population health sciences at the University of Utah and president of the Society for Medical Decision Making, explained.

Experts agree that engaging in shared medical decisions leads to better patient outcomes, more effective treatments, and lower costs. And patients who engage in health care decisions with their doctor “are less likely to regret the choices they make and more likely to stick to the treatment regimens they select,” adds Laura Landro of the Wall Street Journal.

Using the SHARE model for medical decision-making remains a strategic way to engage with patients about their care. Adding digital technology reinforces that relationship by providing patients with a broader perspective of their care and treatment options.