In a Troubled Healthcare System, ‘Digital Empathy’ Is the Way Forward

Physicians use all their knowledge, training and skill to help the injured and the ill recover. When those patients are discharged from the hospital, healthcare providers hope for the best. They hope the patients will mend and go on with their lives.

But hoping for a good outcome isn’t good enough. In a time when our healthcare delivery system is in crisis and a physician shortage is reducing access to care for more and more patients, we need to do better than hope people will get well once their care episode has ended. We need to ensure they get well.

Fortunately, we can ensure that people get well and stay well. It’s a goal that is not just within reach today but is already being attained.

The hurdle we face

Healthcare is not affordable in the U.S. We pay far too much, and we get far too little in return.

We’re trying to fix the problem with new healthcare policies, which we all hope will spur providers to deliver better care at a more affordable price. But new laws will not be enough. The problems with healthcare in our country are too complex to be legislated or litigated away.

Hospitals and health systems are trying to break away from the old way of delivering care, which incentivized physicians to order more tests, admit more patients and increase traffic coming in to healthcare facilities. Providers are now transitioning to a delivery model that puts the quality of care front and center instead of volume of services provided.

But unfortunately, even if the emphasis shifts from quantity to quality — as it should — we are still grappling with a shortage of physicians that will limit access to healthcare for far too many patients. Without enough physicians to treat the sick, the healthcare system is likely to remain broken.

What physicians offer that ‘Dr. Google’ can’t

When people fall ill or injure themselves, what they need above all else is an interaction with a healthcare provider. Providers are not only trained to diagnose and treat problems, they can empathize, or put themselves in the patient’s position.

When I was younger, I had an invasive surgery and needed to be kept awake during the procedure, which took hours. It was not a pleasant experience for a man in his 20s who is used to feeling invincible. What do I remember the most about this operation? The care team who talked to me throughout, the physician who told me it was going to be all right, and the nurse who offered to scratch an itch for me when I was unable to move.

Years later, it was my son who was about to undergo an operation. He was scared, and I felt terrible for him. Aside from my son coming through the procedure just fine, what I remember the most is the physician who made me laugh with an unexpected joke. This doctor empathized with me and understood what it was that I needed the most in that difficult moment.

That is empathy. You’re not going to find it in new policies, and you’re not going to find it when you look up your symptoms on the Internet. “Dr. Google” just can’t give the healthcare consumer what he or she really needs.

Digital empathy

The sick and the injured need the attention of a physician, but the country is facing a physician shortage. People are waiting longer to see their physicians and their visits are getting shorter.

But there are solutions that keep empathy at the forefront. The solution involves technology but never as a replacement for human empathy. Rather, the technology amplifies and extends the empathy of the physician so that it can reach more patients and reach them more regularly than has ever been possible in the past.

That’s what we’re doing with GetWell Loop. We are extending the reach of care teams so that no patient is left behind.

We call it digital empathy. It is a powerful tool for value-based care, because it keeps physicians and patients in constant contact. It’s better than Dr. Google, because there is an empathetic care team at the controls instead of a search engine. And it helps with the country’s shortage of physicians, because it greatly extends the capabilities of every physician using the platform.

What we have seen so far

With GetWell Loop, we have been scaling communications between physicians and patients so that they can take place daily. We don’t just address high-risk patients, we enable care teams to engage all patients before and after admission through automated daily check-ins. By sending the right information at the right time, GetWell Loop identifies those patients that need help in real-time, allowing care teams to proactively intervene before costs and complications escalate. We have made medicine more preventive by intervening before small problems turn into big ones.

We have cut unnecessary costs, reduced the number of unnecessary visits, cut the number of hospital readmissions and boosted patient-satisfaction scores. On average, we’ve seen:

  • 70% of daily check-ins are completed
  • 92% of patients are thrilled
  • Physicians and their teams save time, reach more patients and become more efficient
  • Industry-leading response rates to patient outcome measures

We don’t need to merely hope that patients will recover once their episode of care has ended and they are discharged from the hospital. We don’t need to simply hope they won’t be readmitted. We can do much better than that now.

We can reduce readmissions to the hospital and achieve better outcomes even though we are amid a physician shortage, and even though the country’s healthcare system is being overhauled.

Working with GetWell Loop, we know that empathy is the key to the highest-quality healthcare. That is why we are the leaders in extending and amplifying it, so that no patient will be without it.