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How physicians can deliver a great patient experience and improve patient health
No matter what role we play in supporting the U.S. healthcare ecosystem, we all have a common identity: we are all patients. As patients, we want to find healthcare providers who truly care about us, are accessible when we need them, and will guide us to high-quality care at a reasonable cost. We all hope that we will get the right care, in the right place, at the right time. However, today’s reality is a far cry from these aspirations.
In the past 20 years, the annual rate of price inflation for medical care has grown at a 60% faster rate than for other goods and services. Paradoxically, providers are often not reimbursed for services – like calling a patient or paying a care manager – that help control illness and prevent more expensive future care. Meanwhile, patients defer care today because of the immediate out-of-pocket cost. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, one in five adults without healthcare insurance said that they went without needed care in the past year because of cost. Clearly, there is economic misalignment between provider/patient incentives and the actual cost of healthcare in the U.S.
The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted some of the inherent challenges in our system. As non-emergency patient visit volume has declined (because people do not want to leave their homes), many healthcare provider organizations have been impacted financially. At the same time, patients are missing out on preventative care. Those at highest risk of COVID-19 complications are those that need preventative care the most. While we want our economy back on the road to recovery, its long-term health depends upon the overall health of our people and our healthcare ecosystem. The current road we’re on is not sustainable in the long term as costs are going up and the population is progressively aging.
So what do we need to do? Healthcare providers need to deliver a great patient experience by reorienting their strategies to ensure patients are as healthy as possible. At the same time, healthcare organizations need to do more to prioritize getting the right patients in the door. These are “no regret” steps that will pay dividends to all healthcare organizations -- whether focused on fee-for-service (FFS), value-based care (VBC), or a mixture of both.
There are three critical elements all healthcare organizations need to prioritize as part of their strategies moving forward, starting today:
As we re-emerge – we hope – from COVID-19, we need to help medical practices get back to health quickly, while driving more accessible, affordable, and higher-quality care. This will require a more patient-centric approach to healthcare. We need to improve the overall patient experience, utilize more modern and digital tools, and drive follow-up that will improve everyone’s collective health. Shifting to a more patient-centric, outcome-oriented approach will no longer be an option but truly a necessity in order for both practices and patients to thrive and succeed in a post-COVID world.
Bret Connor is SVP and Chief Customer Officer at athenahealth, Inc.