Millennial GPs 'back expansion of digital communication with patients'

A shift towards digital channels of communication between doctors and their patients, via mobiles and short films hosted on social media, is predicted by a survey of millennial GPs.

Smartphone (Photo: Karl Tapales/Getty Images)
Smartphone (Photo: Karl Tapales/Getty Images)

The ‘Will Millennial Doctors Change Healthcare?’ study spoke to more than 300 GPs and primary care physicians in the UK and the US, of whom half were aged between 26 and 40.

It looked at issues for health professionals including the doctor/patient relationship, use of technology and job satisfaction.

The survey - carried out for communications agency 3 Monkeys Zeno - discovered that 89% of millennial GPs found it hard to spend enough time with patients to develop trusted relationships, although more than half felt this was one of the most important aspects of providing patient care.

GP/patient relationship

Meanwhile, pressure on resources that made it hard for people to book an appointment, coupled with the lack of time GPs had to spend with them, was eroding the doctor/patient relationship, the survey found.

A strong majority of millennial doctors said they felt digital communications between GPs and patients was having a positive impact, while three quarters said direct communication with patients via mobile phones had a positive effect on engagement.

Commenting on the survey results, David Berkovitch, head of UK healthcare at 3MZ, said the survey showed that both patients and GPs were benefiting from digital communications.

He told GPonline's sister publication PRWeek: 'Connecting with patients through digital channels can help put the doctor/patient relationship back at the centre of things where it belongs.'

Social media

Mr Berkovitch argued that GPs could be supported to deliver 'concise and impactful information' to patients if they were given the tools to create short videos and podcasts, shared through social media platforms such as LinkedIn, as well as augmented reality displays.

He added: 'We should continue to challenge ourselves to balance traditional channels… with more digestible content through contemporary channels that are based on their daily content sources.'

He added: 'This is a generation of doctors and, in many cases, patients who grew up with social media and apps. For them, two-sided communications is not only welcomed, it’s expected – social and digital communications is how they engage in most areas of their lives.'

Strategy and insight consultancy BritainThinks said it regularly surveyed younger patients who said it was intuitive for them to access healthcare via technology. Research director Anastasia Knox said: 'The use of technology in healthcare brings benefits for hard-pressed doctors.'

However, she warned: 'There are still groups – notably older people or those who are socially deprived – who do not have access to the internet, or who simply have a strong preference for face-to-face communication when it comes to their healthcare.'

The survey findings came as BMA leaders warned that plans to use digital-first providers to bolster access to general practice in underdoctored areas risked 'short changing' patients.

  • This article first appeared on PRWeek

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