A simple fact of human nature played a big part in why Michael Nusbaum, MD, a bariatric surgeon at Obesity Treatment Centers of New Jersey in Livingston, decided to create a medical communications system. People don’t like to hear bad news. And when they hear some, they sometimes stop listening.
“A lot of patients have what I call ‘bad news deafness,’” Dr. Nusbaum says. “That’s kind of a natural response. You hear the word ‘cancer’ and you stop listening to everything the doctor says. The problem is there are a lot of instructions that are continuing to go on and they don’t hear any of it.”
With MedXCom, a platform that weant to market this year, he’s hoping to fix that problem. When a patient calls the physician’s office, they’re connected into the MedXCom system and the doctor’s phone then rings. The physician can listen to a message the patient has just left, then either take the call or have the patient leave a message to be returned later.
The system gives physicians a chance to connect into an electronic medical record, which allows an information sheet on the patient to become immediately available on a smart phone before they take the call. That way, the physician can become familiar with the details, if he or she isn’t already familiar. That can be especially helpful if the on-call doctor isn’t that patient’s main physician.
All of the calls using MedXCom are automatically recorded and accessible on a smart phone, through an app, or on a desktop computer.
The recordings, Dr. Nusbaum says, are meant to protect both parties—the patient can go back and listen to the recordings if the physician makes them available, and the physician has his or her instructions recorded to prevent misunderstandings.
An Informational Safety Net
Dr. Nusbaum knows what can happen when there is no recording of an important medical conversation. A senior partner of his was involved in a medical malpractice suit in which the wife of a patient claimed that he never told her to take the patient to the emergency room.
“He swore that he told her,” Dr. Nusbaum says. “And I have no doubt that he did tell her.” In the courtroom, he says, the woman admitted that his partner told her to go to the E.R. but said he didn’t emphasize how important it was. His partner ended up settling the case. A recording of the call might have stopped the case in its tracks.