health care forum

2019 TCU Health Care Forum: As Costs Rise, Patients Demand Bigger Role in Their Health Care

A nationally recognized panel of experts said communication and technology will play key roles in patient satisfaction and personalized care.

December 09,  2019

By Prescotte Stokes III, Marketing Manager, TCU and UNTHSC School of Medicine

Technology has streamlined businesses across the world, reducing costs, increasing productivity and curating new customers. But in health care it has had a slightly different effect.

“Technology is helping us with a lot of things like diagnostics and treatment. Ironically, as we use technology more, the art of medicine becomes even more important,” said Evonne Kaplan-Liss, assistant dean for narrative reflection and patient communication at the TCU and UNTHSC School of Medicine.

“Technology cannot replace breaking bad news or the connection patients seek,” she added. “Our physicians and medical students need to be compassionate in their communication.”

Kaplan-Liss was part of a panel of health care experts who addressed a crowd of 250 for the TCU Health Care Forum, presented annually by the TCU and UNTHSC School of Medicine and the TCU Neeley School of Business TCU Health Care MBA.

More than 250 people attended this year’s forum titled, “A Healthy Bottom Line: Improving the Patient Health Care Experience,” moderated by Stuart D. Flynn, founding dean of the TCU and UNTHSC School of Medicine, and Daniel Pullin, the John V. Roach Dean of the TCU Neeley School of Business. Other experts on the panel were Winjie Tang Miao, senior executive vice president and chief experience officer at Texas Health Resources, and Benjamin Isgur, health research institute leader at PricewaterhouseCooper.

The first challenge in preserving the patient experience is a financial hurdle for many Americans, who pay more per health care outcome than any other industrialized nation in the world, Pullin said.

“If you can’t afford proper care, you can’t be your best self,” he said.

The average single health care deductible in 2019 was $1,655, more than double the average of $826 a decade ago according to a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

“[Patients] are spending more out of their pocket and they want a better experience,” Isgur said. “When they work with travel companies or their financial institutions, everything is available to them on their phones. They want that in their health care world.”

In a 2018 survey by Accenture, about 75 percent of consumers said that technology is important to managing their health, and 48 percent reported that they were using mobile health apps, compared with just 16 percent in 2014.

“We’re seeing other companies coming in from outside of health care to provide a better patient experience,” Isgur said. “That’s why there’s so much importance being placed on providing a great consumer experience in health care.”

Barriers for health care providers include additional costs, federal government regulations and highly sensitive patient data, but technology can “improve work flow, improve the experience for a caregiver and extend the care we provide to other settings,” said Miao.

She added that implementing new technology to assist clinicians and help them preserve their connection with their patients should be a top priority.

“Consumers don’t want a transactional experience anymore,” Miao said. “Where health care companies can build value is earning a lifetime of loyalty and trust from patients.”

What does patient satisfaction have to do with the bottom line?

“Patient satisfaction affects clinical outcomes, patient retention and medical malpractice claims,” Flynn said. “Patients who trust their doctors have better clinical outcomes.”

“I think it’s about meeting people where they are and providing care and support in that moment when they need it,’ Miao said. “Ultimately health care is a very personal thing. So the goal is to keep that personalization.”

Kaplan-Liss said personalization begins with a new approach to medical education for future physicians and more training for current practicing physicians.

“Compassion is empathy plus action, and we’re training our medical students to do this,” said Kaplan-Liss, the nation’s first dean devoted solely to patient communication. Before joining the Fort Worth medical school, Kaplan-Liss served as founding medical director of the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science, where she developed the curriculum and led national and international workshops to educate students, faculty, and administrators.

“We’re all empathetic, but what makes or breaks an encounter with a patient is whether you can show that empathy,” Kaplan-Liss said. “The moment is missed in 87 percent of encounters in primary care.”