The key to patient-centered care – a concept that continues to evolve – is the relationship between physician and patient. Finding the balance between patient engagement and information technology, however, can be challenging.

IT has benefited healthcare practices in many ways. For example, it allows patients to service themselves when it comes to transactional exchanges, such as scheduling appointments and reviewing bills.

There are fears, however, that IT can also create distance between the practitioner and patient, reducing face-to-face contact. Here are three tips to ensure that doesn’t happen:

  1. Accept that patient-centered IT initiatives help the physician. Small practices need to adopt the same features as their competitors, including large practices as well as low-cost primary care providers such as CVS and Walgreens.
  2. Determine your needs. Patient-centered IT practices vary. Some practices use patient portals to optimize patient input. Others use email, text, video and mobile apps to create an impact across a broader spectrum of their patients’ health. You’ll need to find what works best for your patient. Younger patients, for example, might prefer text messaging; older patients might prefer email.
  3. Reconsider your reimbursement model. IT advancements have patients emailing, text messaging and video conferencing their doctors without payment. That puts pressure on the physician to do more for less. This is a problem with your business model, not your IT. You can’t offer services that eradicate half of your service visits or you’ll bankrupt your practice.

For details, please see “Five Keys to IT and the Physician-Patient Relationship.”