Patient Engagement in the Digital Age

Posted on by Elizabeth Lund, DVM, MPH, PhD

Last week, I visited my internist for a check-up. As I signed in, the receptionist handed me instructions for logging into an online portal where I could view different elements of my patient care. Last summer when I visited the same physician, I had also been given the information about the portal. For some reason, I had never gotten around to logging on; I just relied on the traditional communication infrastructure, missed telephone calls and messaging triaged through her nursing staff! Needless to say, I never felt terribly empowered by the process that I had come to expect as the norm.

I was inspired this past visit, though, to actually log into my patient page since I have recently started viewing my online pet records at Banfield. The day after my visit, I logged on to the portal. It was painless—just like logging into a bank account. The full pathology report from my mammogram was waiting for me—less than 24 hours after I had done the procedure! Within 48 hours, I had results from my cholesterol screening and my thyroid testing.  And, there was an e-mail message from my doctor interpreting the results and letting me know that she had called in a new prescription for levothyroxine. She also stressed the importance of diet and exercise for managing my cholesterol. My total cholesterol was over 200 mg/dl as it has been in the past, but this time, I really feel motivated to change my diet and be more disciplined about exercise. 

Online access to health data has made me more engaged as a patient. I feel empowered by the sense of partnership that comes with shared knowledge. For the first time, I am not dependent on the provider for access to my health information as I have been in the past. My physician’s interpretation was still critical; but as a patient, I feel like a partner in my own healthcare. For my physician, the efficiency gained in communication through this patient portal is tremendous. And, I would imagine that she feels more engaged as a provider since the patient connection is so direct.   

As veterinarians, this same kind of partnership between provider and pet owner is indeed possible. Banfield is leading the profession in providing online access to pet medical records for its Optimum Wellness Plan® patients. Banfield’s wellness plans —affordably priced health care plans that spread costs over a year—put preventive care on the radar for pet owners. In addition, hospital teams can use the plans to guide conversations about current and future pet health needs, keeping owners engaged and in lockstep with the veterinarian.

I know that shared medical information through a patient portal has increased my engagement as a patient, and as English Renaissance philosopher and author Sir Francis Bacon so eloquently said, “Knowledge is power!” 

About Elizabeth Lund, DVM, MPH, PhD

Elizabeth Lund, DVM, MPH, PhD, joined Banfield in 2006 as senior director of research. As an epidemiologist, Dr. Lund’s experience has included research in academia, industry and public health. Dr. Lund and her husband, Jim, have four children and many pets, including “Bernie” a Dutch Warmblood horse. View all posts by Elizabeth Lund, DVM, MPH, PhD →

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