CRUCIAL ACCESS: PRIMARY CARE
Nick Gettas, MD - Chief Medical Officer of CareAllies
Insights on developing PCP access strategies.
Primary Care is often thought of as the foundation of improving health care outcomes and affordability. According to the Primary Care Progress organization:
- The U.S. could save $67 billion annually if everyone saw a primary care provider (PCP)
- Adults with a PCP have 19% lower odds of premature death than those who only see specialists
It’s true that increased awareness could lead to an increase in PCP-patient engagement, but what if getting care from a PCP just isn’t convenient? How can we expand access to our patients in new and innovative ways in an effort to help patients stay healthy and better manage their conditions?
70% of respondents to a pre-event poll indicated that they currently only offer enhanced access through same-day appointments or extended/alternative access hours, but is this enough? Part of our transition to value-based care requires assessing our current state and re-thinking how we approach patient care. This means thinking differently about how to:
- Care for patients based on outcomes and affordability,
- Empower and maximize every member of the care team and
- Identify and close gaps in care.
While making these changes, we need to seek ways to enhance access. Increasing access and removing barriers to care has an effect on patients and families, providers and care teams, provider practices and local communities, and it requires a “whole-person” approach with changes to your capacity and demand.
Are you increasing your capacity by fully utilizing your care team, providing options for care beyond one-on-one visits and creating contingency plans? Are you reducing demand by ensuring continuity, providing care management and eliminating backlogs for appointments? Taking a “whole-person” approach to care means engagement with patients before and after they visit your office. Do you have processes in place to connect with patients and understand their needs and preferences?
We have been trained to provide face-to-face care in our office, but in this new world, we must consider other options. In-home clinical care is one way to not only connect with high-risk patients, but also with those who may be home-bound for other reasons. Partnering with other facilities, such as urgent care centers, allows for visits with access to patients’ records after-hours. For patients with mental health conditions, access to behavioral health resources not only gives them a chance to discuss behavioral health but also “healthy behaviors”. How can we get to the root of some of their problems and avoid unnecessary emergency room visits? Lastly, virtual care is becoming more popular. Whether this is through telephone, email, video conferencing or other tools, PCPs are increasingly communicating and conducting patient visits via technology and connecting with specialists for consults.
Each practice is different, so finding the right approach that works for you and your team is critical; however, no matter what approach you take to enhancing access, it is clear that improvements can lead to positive changes in the way we provide care.
Valuable Insights is a complimentary virtual education series designed to help independent physicians navigate the challenges of today’s health care environment. Browse the full Valuable Insights schedule, and sign up to receive notifications about future webcasts. Valuable Insights webcasts will be posted monthly on the CareAllies Insights page in 2018. Please note that topics and schedule are subject to change.