Tech-driven connectivity and collaboration tools empower primary care providers (PCPs) to shepherd patient care, while simultaneously empowering patients to make more informed and strategic decisions about their own health and care journey.
Health care, at its core, is an experience between patients and their health care providers. At worst, clunky technologies, operational processes, and reimbursement hurdles produce a fractured experience, usurping the attention that relationship-driven care needs. In an ideal scenario, those technologies, processes, and payments work seamlessly in the background, enabling the delivery of personalized care where patients are known and understood. And though even the right technology could never replace patient-provider interaction, it certainly can elevate it. Tech-driven connectivity and collaboration tools empower primary care providers to shepherd patient care, while simultaneously empowering patients to make more informed and strategic decisions about their own health and care journey.
Lean Into the Digitalization of Care Coordination
This emphasis on patient-provider relationships may feel obvious, but with how the health care continuum currently operates, there is a lack of systematic support of these relationships. Patient volumes and needs have reached all-time highs, and nearly every office in health care is short-staffed. To help overcome those challenges, many providers have looked to technology-enabled care models and health navigation solutions as logical bridges over persistent gaps.
The first step is to move patients away from episodic health behaviors and toward more longitudinal relationships with their fully coordinated care teams. Many patients have multiple chronic health conditions and logistical challenges, such as unreliable transportation or limited family support, which make it harder for them to fill prescriptions, follow through on their treatment plans, and schedule follow-up appointments.
Having a fully informed care team allows patients to shed the burden of having to act as the constant “go between” among their different providers. A key driver of this is employing technology that fosters transparency and accountability of care by digitizing communication and referral management. This transparency allows every member of the integrated team to be informed in each stage of a patient’s care and always know if the latest referral has been sent and scheduled, as well as providing easy access to health data, files, and images.
Lest we forget, the most important members of each health care team are the patients themselves. They will make better health choices with better outcomes if they are fully incorporated into the holistic team and aren’t isolated as the sole navigator of their health journey. Along with patients being supported to have a high level of health literacy, patients need to be kept in the loop about their care, secure in the knowledge that their providers know them and will continue guiding them toward better health.
Ditch the One-Size-Fits-All Model
Once relationship-based care is established, it’s abundantly clear that a one-size-fits all model will never provide the optimal care for all patients. Instead, collaborative care teams can tailor care for each patient, keeping in mind each patients’ unique circumstances, be they chronic disease, social determinants of health, health plan coverage, or any number of other factors. We’ve found dedicated care managers can employ an active inquiry and empathy model with patients to help identify these underlying health variables, engage with patients where they are and act as an advocate for each patient.
Patients are not just the sum of their conditions, so a deeper interaction is often required to improve their health. As an example of meaningful, deeper interactions, high levels of engagement occur when a dedicated pharmacist schedules time with each patient every month to talk about their health needs, their overall well-being, and how they’re doing with their medications. In addition to these interactions, patients with access to a customized app can communicate with their pharmacists in between regularly scheduled appointments.
Ditching the one-size-fits-all model helps make health more equitable. Based on their backgrounds and circumstances, some patients will require a higher-touch care team that they engage with at more frequent intervals than others. Some patients will need access to diabetes educators, social workers, or nutritionists, while others may not. Dedicated tech solutions provide highly intuitive, efficient, and accessible options for patients and providers to stay connected. It is important to note, however, that broadband access, technology literacy, and language barriers can all exacerbate issues of health inequity. As provider organizations incorporate and engage with patients using technology, there needs to be appropriate language, hardware, and even analog alternatives offered in ways that remain fully comparable to the digital options.
Remove the Screen Between Patients and Providers
Finally, empowering providers doesn’t mean asking them to do more. Organizations need to be tactical about their asks of providers and make sure they are equipped to accomplish patient and organizational goals. This can mean adopting platforms and policies that remove low-level tasks from physician and other clinicians’ day-to-day work to help realign health care workers to their true purpose and passion: caring for patients and shepherding them toward better health outcomes. Another way to accomplish this is to rewire how reimbursement works within the system. As we move away from a fee-for-service model, charge capture and coding within the electronic medical record becomes much less important, allowing heath providers to remove the screen between them and their patients. Embracing the value-based care model of payment in healthcare incentivizes relational care over transactional care.
Technology can’t hold patients’ hands in exam rooms to deliver hard news or celebrate progress, but neither can providers who are tied up meeting the procedural demands of their institutions. The best technologies amplify human interactions and make healthcare experiences positive and productive. By adopting collaborative tools that empower providers as health care partners, we squarely put the emphasis back where it should be: on patient health and positive patient health care journeys.