Physicians Extend Their Reach Beyond the Office

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media , October 25, 2012

Indeed, it is important for physicians to engage patients for preventative treatment, says Loftus. It's not only about being outside, on the turf, but it's about technology, too.

Using social media such as Twitter feeds, downloadable apps, and secure messaging, Kaiser Permanente officials say they are creating critical links to patients and their families that allow physicians to influence behaviors for better health.

In a program known as My Health Manager, physicians essentially make agreements with patients who vow to lose weight. The doctor and patient email each other, and the physicians build in reminder emails to patients who haven't met their weight goals. A flowchart is set up on a Kaiser Permanente website to track the information, according to Debra Carlton, MD, associate medical director of primary care, behavioral health, informatics, coding and documentation for the Southwest Permanente Medical Group.

"We want to transcend the office visit" Carlton says.

Physicians offer their personal bios online, and it's not the usual curriculum vitae. They write about their families, or even their personal issues, such as their own encounters with the health system as patients.

"Patients are feeling they can engage with this person, and that's how our clinicians are beginning to think, too," Carlton says.

Joe Cantlupe is a senior editor with HealthLeaders Media Online.
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