Quality healthcare is deeply rooted in a trusting, informative patient-physician relationship. With the increasing popularity of patients using technology to inform themselves of everything from healthcare services to condition-specific diagnoses, quality healthcare can fall to the wayside without the existence of a solid partnership between patients and their physicians. When a fruitful patient-physician relationship exists, patients can rest assured that they will receive accurate, safe information regarding their personal healthcare, accompanied by access to digital health technology that will empower them with the ability to make educated healthcare decisions. Physicians who offer patients advanced digital platforms foster such relationships by addressing both the immediate needs of patients and their long-term wellness goals.

According to Jason Burum, vice president of patient engagement and clinical effectiveness at Wolters Kluwer Health, physicians need to focus attention not only on establishing an initial culture of trust with their patients but also in continuing to foster that trust throughout the customer life cycle. This ultimately yields realistic, comprehensive, measurable goals and objectives set by both the physicians and patients. New online technologies help physicians to further cultivate a partnership with patients by empowering them, allowing them to more easily and seamlessly access their records and communicate with physicians. Technology is only one piece of the patient-physician relationship, however. Perhaps the most crucial element is an empathetic physician who, whether meeting in-person or virtually with a patient, demonstrates respect for the patient’s concerns and feelings.

Burum suggests that educating patients is the foundation for an effective patient-physician relationship. This can be done by providing patients with literature like visitation summaries, discharge instructions, or pamphlets on new medications. Anything that assist patients’ understanding of their diagnoses and treatment options serves to educate and empower them. Along with educating patients, physicians must engage patients, providing them with greater comprehension regarding their general wellness and thereby encouraging them to take more ownership of their health. According to Burum, engagement leads to better clinical and financial outcomes. In order to avoid marginalizing patients or creating roadblocks to healthcare, engagement requires flexibility and awareness from physicians. As opposed to an inside-the-box, clear-cut, physician-centered approach to medicine, working to establish patient engagement requires physicians to tailor solutions to specific patients, considering many elements including race, sexual orientation, gender, or socioeconomic status.

Patients who are educated and engaged, in turn, are more likely to be proactive, taking part in preventative care and experiencing a healthier lifestyle focused on wellness. When physicians continue showing an active interest in their patients’ wellbeing via tools like online chat boxes, virtual visits, and other communication-fostering technologies, patients can feel confident in their healthcare, leading to fewer hospitalizations and readmissions.