Posts Tagged ‘provider-patient relationship’

Guest Post: The Provider’s Responsibility for Building Patient Relationships

July 31st, 2018 by Dr. Delanor Doyle

A foundational element of healthcare is the relationship between a patient and their PCP.

One of the foundational elements of healthcare is, or at least should be, the relationship between a patient and their primary care physician (PCP). And yet, it seems many Americans are not fully utilizing their PCP and instead are turning to emergency rooms or urgent care clinics for non-urgent conditions and illnesses. In fact, only 9 percent of emergency department visits result in a hospital admission. This means it is likely that many of these cases could have been avoided by seeking the care of a PCP.

Emergency department visits not only result in hefty costs to the patient and their employer, but also create wastes of time and resources in the healthcare system. The impact in terms of costs, for the patients can have many down-stream consequences. In fact, a recent report by the U.S. Federal Reserve found that four out of 10 adults in the United States could not cover an unexpected $400 expense. In some cases, this amount can easily be reached for a single emergency room visit between out-of-pocket costs for the visit, medications and laboratory services —especially when dealing with out-of-network issues. Providers should work to keep patients out of emergency rooms and urgent care facilities and to emphasize the importance and purpose of the PCP in the patient’s healthcare journey.

Until the 1940s, about 40 percent of all physician visits were house calls and while today patients don’t have this same expectation, providers should treat patients with that same level of personalized, individual care that builds a strong relationship. Providers can consider implementing the following best practices with their patients:

Every Discharge Deserves a Follow-Up

In many cases the PCP is not the provider who admitted or cared for the patient while in the hospital. However, it is imperative that the PCP insist on receiving information about the patient’s admission, so that he or she can be a part of the discharge plan. The patient should be seen back in the practice within three to five days after discharge —even if they were seen just prior to going into the hospital. In fact, this should be scheduled for the patient prior to hospital discharge. Timely follow-up appointments have been associated with a decreased risk of readmission. A converse association also exists. A study published in Clinical Interventions of Aging found only half of patients discharged following heart failure had a follow-up appointment scheduled and the readmission rate was significantly higher in those that had no follow-up scheduled.

Follow-up appointments allow for the provider to engage or re-engage the patient and ensures the patient is aware of any care transition recommendations. Concerns regarding disease process, expectations and convalescence should be addressed at this time. Working to schedule all patients for timely follow-up post discharge eliminates the risk of the patient forgetting to schedule the appointments themselves. Many patients report a higher sense of satisfaction with the communication between themselves and their provider and with their overall care.

Encourage Virtual Care Options

For after-hours needs, do your patients know there are virtual care options they can use in lieu of going to the emergency room or urgent care clinics for non-urgent concerns? Many patients are simply unaware of these services or aren’t sure how to use them so they don’t consider it as an option. According to the National Business Group on Health, only 8 percent of employees utilize telemedicine services, yet the cost of healthcare benefits is expected to increase an average of 5 percent due in part to pharmaceutical costs but also to site of service issues as well. Spend a few minutes during the visit to educate patients on the services available as well as when to use them.

Promote Health Plan Resources

Unfortunately, many patients are also not familiar with the services or programs offered by their health plans. These materials are good resources for preventative care measures and offer proactive suggestions for patients. For example, their insurance provider might offer diabetes educational materials and resources. Most health plans have programs for diabetes and other chronic conditions. If members are encouraged to access the materials available online, telephonically and in print they might be more likely to seek out that information and if contacted by the health plan they will be much more likely to engage. It is important that patients begin to get a sense that the health plan and the providers are collaborating for the patient’s benefit.

We are still in a fee-for-service world but moving toward fee-for-value. This is being driven by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and all the major health plans. To be successful in this new world, improved patient outcomes should be a major focus for providers. Strategies that engage the patient and simplify the healthcare experience when and where it is needed most are going to be produce the winners in this new era. The literature is replete with strategies that can produce population health success, but few are shown to be consistently correlated to economic success combined with improved patient satisfaction and outcomes. The exceptions have been those that employ heavy care coordination in a face-to-face venue and that address the social determinants of disease.

Fully leveraging these strategies is going to require the development of trust between the patient and provider so that patients know we are not just treating a disease but caring for the whole person. When that level of trust is reached it becomes easier to influence utilization of the PCP practice and other more appropriate levels of care instead of the ED. Similarly, it becomes easier to impact the readmission rate in one’s own panel of patients.

About the Author:

Dr. Delanor Doyle

Dr. Delanor Doyle

Dr. Delanor Doyle is the chief medical officer of Texas Health Aetna. Leveraging the strengths of two leading organizations, Texas Health Aetna is blurring the lines of traditional health care plans and health systems to create a truly integrated solution that’s simple to navigate and puts the member’s experience first. The local health plan is committed to providing affordable, high-quality health care services and delivering customized care to members throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. For more information about Texas Health Aetna, visit www.texashealthaetna.com.