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Health care is enjoying a new level of technological progress. Advancements like artificial intelligence (AI), wearable devices and websites with all kinds of health information offer countless possibilities.

But even the biggest innovations can’t replace all the benefits of human contact and intuition.

When doctors use technology as a tool, patients get the best of both worlds. AI-assisted diagnostics, for example, can zip through symptoms and conditions faster than any human.

But the results are most useful when combined with a doctor’s own findings, clinical knowledge, experience and relationship to the patient.

Even intuition can be a useful tool. According to an article in CMAJ News, “Studies of physicians demonstrate that the best predictor of diagnostic accuracy is having a hunch about a patient’s condition in the first minutes of an encounter.” A doctor’s gut feeling can often be more helpful to an eventual diagnosis than signs and symptoms.1

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Empathy, respect and physical touch are all human traits that show tangible results. Studies show that:

  • Compassion can reduce pain after surgery, improve survival rates and boost the immune system.2
  • Patients have significantly better outcomes when their physicians score high on empathy.3
  • Just holding a patient’s hand can be beneficial, as human touch can reduce cortisol levels caused by stress hormones.4

Ultimately, when patients feel providers are taking them seriously and meeting their needs, they may use fewer health care services.5

Research consistently shows that an ongoing relationship with a provider leads to improved long-term wellness. Here’s a great opportunity for technology and humans to work together.

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Messaging apps and patient portals actually humanize the care experience by creating more access to providers. This direct line of communication can be easier to use than a care system that involves phone services or administrative assistants.

Also, technology that reduces physicians’ administrative burden helps free up time for more meaningful visits with their patients.

Effective technology offers ways to improve and support the health care experience. When technology combines with true human touch, that powerful partnership can improve patient outcomes, reduce physician burnout and decrease health care spending.

Read more about care delivery on the OptumCare Clinician insights page.

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References

  1. CMAJ News. Gut feelings a strong influence on physician decisions. Published Aug. 2, 2018. Accessed Dec. 11, 2018.
  2. World Economic Forum. Compassion: what it is and why it matters in medicine. Published March 27, 2017. Accessed Dec. 11, 2018.
  3. Academic Medicine: Journal of the Association of American Medical Colleges. Physicians’ Empathy and Clinical Outcomes for Diabetic Patients. Published March 2011. Accessed Dec. 11, 2018.
  4. Medpage Today’s KevinMD.com. The value of therapeutic touch in medicine. Published Nov. 30, 2011. Accessed Dec. 11, 2018.
  5. Academic Medicine: Journal of the Association of American Medical Colleges. Physicians’ Empathy and Clinical Outcomes for Diabetic Patients. Published March 2011. Accessed Dec. 11, 2018.