You put it off as long as you could, but eventually it had to happen. There’s been a burning in your throat and chest for weeks. Eventually the discomfort and fear of not knowing what it was escalates to a level that just can’t be ignored. So, you made a doctor’s appointment, and after an hour of waiting, waiting, and waiting, the doctor is standing in front of you in her white coat holding your file. Alas, the moment for all of this waiting has finally arrived. You will now be informed of the problem and given the solution!
“You have gastroesophageal reflux caused by the mastication and peristalsis of capsaicin in the oropharynx. It’s curable as long as you cease ingestion of capsaicin and make sure to take aluminum/magnesium antacid as needed. Also, you should decrease stress and increase relaxation or the problem will persist. Do you have any questions?”
“Uh… um… well… Er…”
I’m Sorry; What Did You Just Say To Me?
It’s not that you didn’t have any questions, it’s that you had about a million questions in that moment. It was very overwhelming. What is gastroesophageal reflux? Is it life threatening? I would love to cease ingestion of capsaicin, but what is it? How do I cease ingesting it if I’m not sure how I’m even ingesting it in the first place? These kinds of questions are completely normal for a person given this diagnosis who doesn’t have a medical background. The fact is that 50% of patients leave their doctor’s office having no clue what they were told or what they’re supposed to do about it. And 90% of adults experience difficulty pursuing advice given by their physician because… what did they even say1?
All By Myself, Don’t Wanna Be All By Myself
So, now you find yourself with a problem you can’t pronounce and a treatment regimen you can’t comprehend. You’re frustrated, but you’re not alone. 42% of Americans would be more prone to stick to their treatment plans if support and instruction were offered by their healthcare provider between visits. Unfortunately, 55% of doctors don’t communicate with their patients between visits, and 50% believe their job is just another 9-52. Because doctors want to have evenings and weekends off (and rightfully so), 93% of patients feel it’s important to be able to turn to the Internet for medical information3. But the unmonitored Internet can be a tricky thing for the individual without a medical background to find the right diagnosis or treatment without the help of their healthcare provider.
By George, It Does Exist
The problem here isn’t that people don’t want to follow the advice of their doctor. If they didn’t want to listen to them, they wouldn’t have paid money to wait a really long time to see them. The problem is the average person finds medical terminology incomprehensible. It just doesn’t make sense, and why is it all in Latin? It takes awhile for complex information to sink in. Often times the doctor isn’t available to answer questions when the patient thinks of them, leaving them with the option of playing an intense game of 3-day phone tag or turning to the Internet.
There’s a solution for these dilemmas, an information buffer between doctor explanation and patient frustration.Virtual health assistants can help patients by answering questions in simplistic form and prompting them to continue asking until all of them are answered, and they feel fully informed. A virtual health assistant helps patients realize they have indigestion from eating peppers. Or that all they have to do is stop eating peppers, decrease stress, increase relaxation, and take an antacid if necessary. And virtual health assistants are never busy and always available whenever needed. That’s a world of difference to a person dealing with problems they don’t understand.
1 Mueller, Ann Tracy. “Infographic: 50 percent of patients are confused after doctors’ visits.” Ragan Communications, Inc. http://www.healthcarecommunication.com/Main/Articles/Infographic_50_percent_of_patients_are_confused_af_11292.aspx
2 Congdon, Ken. “The Shocking Truth About Patient Engagment.” Jameson Publishing. http://www.healthcaretechnologyonline.com/doc/the-shocking-truth-about-patient-engagement-0001
3 Ferguson, Tom. “e-Patients: how they can help us heal health care.” E-Patient Scholars Working Group. http://e-patients.net/e-Patients_White_Paper.pdf