The current “payer” mentality among healthcare providers is both a cause and symptom of the increasingly transactional nature of healthcare. As it stands today, a sick person seeks a provider for diagnosis, guidance, and treatment. Once well, that person won’t seek further assistance until sickness strikes again. This is analogous to calling roadside assistance every time your car overheats or runs out of gas, rather than keeping your tank full, changing your oil regularly, and performing other preventative maintenance.
A partner mentality is needed if we hope to enter a future where providers don’t just fight sickness or disease, but actually help build patient wellness. But how can provider organizations deliver true preventative care to as many people as seemingly need it? Especially when you consider this: A third of U.S. physicians spend just 17 to 24 minutes with the average patient, while devoting nearly half of their workday to handling administrative drudgery. It’s hard to develop a real partnership with so little personal interaction.
Providers may attempt to make up for this by sending cards over the holidays or offering patients online tools that lead to more efficient communication, but these tactics don’t make up for one-on-one attention. It’s time organizations create clinical programs that maximize spending time with patients, allowing providers to do what their jobs describe: Provide care.
It’s About Time (Literally)
To build relationships with patients and move away from episodic, transactional care, providers must have time to connect and listen on an individual level.
Technology promises to reduce the amount of time providers spend on work that doesn’t strengthen the provider/patient relationship, creating opportunities that did not exist until now. And that’s a good thing: Research from the book “Compassionomics” found that just 40 extra seconds of interaction can reduce stress, improve blood pressure, and help alleviate anxiety in patients. That same research suggests providers will benefit, too: Additional time with patients will generally make them happier and less likely to burn out. Case in point: A longtime colleague of mine said he was considering leaving emergency medicine; I asked him why. “I want to find a situation where I can sit at a patient’s bedside, ask them questions, and actually have time to listen to their responses,” he replied.
Moreover, healthcare technology will generate a wealth of new data that, if used properly, will better personalize care. Rather than simply collecting patients’ data and reciting it back to them, providers must make a concerted effort to weave that information into an understandable, actionable story — one that provides patients with a “what” and “when” related to their individual role in advancing health.
Patients want to be healthy; they don’t crave raw data. Providers who collect diagnostic results or real-time biometrics (like glucose, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, etc.) and then simply provide a readout during a checkup can’t expect to see meaningful improvement in patient health. Instead, providers must show patients the information that’s important, why it matters for their long-term well-being, and how to improve those individual data results. By doing this, providers will find patients more willing to engage, take action, and follow up as needed. In other words, the partnership will start to look and feel more like a relationship.
Bringing the Hospital Home
Along with boosting patient engagement and satisfaction, the tools that provide data-driven insights can apply to myriad healthcare scenarios. For starters, they’ll help drastically reduce hospital readmissions, which are those rare occasions where everyone involved (patient, provider, and payer) ultimately loses. Remote patient monitoring (RPM) tools help providers ensure patients are receiving necessary education and treatment before a critical event occurs through the real-time transmission of important biometric data from a connected device. The RPM market is already big, and it’s expected to reach up to $31 billion by 2023 due to increased demand.
It’s clear that the complexities of our healthcare system can contribute to gaps in care, especially when it comes to the relationship between patient and practitioner. Bridging those gaps will take time, but innovations in data sharing and management will only improve a provider’s ability to ensure a whole-health approach with patients.
Dr. Jeremy Corbett serves as a divisional chief health officer for Envolve Health. His background in innovative digital product design and implementation, paired with his training in clinical medicine, give him unique insights into population health management and the future of medicine, technology, and managed care.