Spotlight on patient engagement: Which initiatives do spine surgeons swear by?

Written by Anuja Vaidya | August 20, 2015 | Print  | Email

Here four spine surgeons weigh in on the most effective pain engagement initiatives that they have incorporated.

Ask Spine Surgeons is a weekly series of questions posed to spine surgeons around the country about clinical, business and policy issues affecting spine care. We invite all spine surgeon and specialist responses.


Next week's question: Is your practice ICD-10 ready? Do you feel like it would be better if you had more time?

Please send responses to Anuja Vaidya at by Wednesday, August 26, at 5 p.m. CST.


Question: What are some of the most innovative patient engagement initiatives you have incorporated in your practice?


Randall Porter, MD, Neurosurgeon, Barrow Neurosurgical Associates (Phoenix): There is a pervasive problem in the healthcare industry not many physicians discuss and that is our patients' recollection. A study in the Journal of Experimental Aging suggests that patients forget up to 90 percent of what their doctors tell them, and most of what they do retain is misunderstood.


To mitigate that problem, in 2008 my staff and I started video-recording our patient visits. We used a small handheld camera and burned the recordings directly to a DVD, which we shared with the patient. The benefits to the practice were almost immediate. In my office alone, we observed improved recall, increased patient satisfaction and also a reduction in clarification phone calls.


However, while that method was effective, it required significant manual involvement. Someone had to match the patient with his or her video, burn the recording to a DVD and ensure the correct patient received the correct recording. Furthermore, security was a top priority so that we remained HIPAA-compliant. In 2012, we developed a tablet-based medical video recording system called The Medical Memory. It combines a video app with a web-based portal that allows doctors to record their visits and store them in our secure cloud. Then patients log in to their individual patient portals to view and share the videos with their caregivers and physicians.


The results so far have been great. We have recorded more than 4,000 videos, which patients have shared with families and caregivers in 48 states. My staff and I have noticed a marked improvement in patient engagement during the exam as they are free to engage without being burdened with remembering minute details. Our patients know they can reference their visit at any time, so they're more engaged, and they ask more insightful questions.


Neel Anand, MD, Clinical Professor of Surgery, Director, Spine Trauma, Cedars-Sinai Spine Center (Los Angeles): Treat the patient right and listen to the patient. This is the best way to keep them engaged. Give them your time and make the right diagnosis. If someone does not need surgery, don't do it. Be available to the patient.


Brian R. Gantwerker, MD, The Craniospinal Center of Los Angeles: I ask patients to review me on Healthgrades and Vitals.


Kenneth Pettine, MD, Founder, The Spine Institute (Johnstown, Colo.): I think the best patient engagement activities are doing public talks in various locations that are sources of potential patient referrals. Other initiatives include writing patients personal letters and thanking them for referrals.


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