The concept of population health is straightforward. Achieving it, not so much.
Managing care outside of the healthcare system is becoming as important to cost and outcomes as managing care within in. And primary care is the foundation.
Without a strong primary care base, it’s challenging to:
- Integrate primary care and specialty physicians
- Track patient utilization across the system
- Improve transitions within the health system or from the hospital to home
Access to a primary care physician drives preventative care, a key component in reducing overuse of emergency departments and associated costs. Still, a reported 75% of Americans have difficulty getting an appointment with a primary care physician.
Clearly the demand for physicians is significant. But a quick fix to match supply hasn’t materialized. Even though enrollment in primary care residency programs is up and incentives are growing.
It will take time to bolster the workforce. But team-based care models can limit physician burdens and strengthen care coordination.
Not just house calls
Physicians began as community-based providers who made house calls. And in small communities, the local physician was the only option.
As medical care developed, this model became outdated. The demand for care and the wealth of medical information made it impossible for a sole practitioner to know everything necessary to provide the best care.
More care moved to hospitals and other healthcare facilities and access to specialty physicians grew. Tracking patient care became more difficult, especially with the lack of technology to connect disparate physicians.
And that challenge continues in our healthcare system today.
New models create new opportunities
According to the Institute of Medicine, primary care physicians who care for Medicare recipients are linked to an average of 229 other physicians each year in the care of their patients! While primary care physicians are an integral part of new care delivery models, they aren’t the whole story.
New care delivery models also represent promising opportunities because they emphasize patient care and connectivity among diverse caregivers.
According to C-suite respondents to Premier’s semiannual Economic Outlook survey, top areas of resource dedication for population health include:
- Patient-centered medical homes (25%)
- Home health (17%)
- Telemedicine/virtual care (11%)
Patient-centered medical homes use the primary care physician as a care coordination hub which enhances access and strengthens relationships among patients and personal care teams. And research by The Commonwealth Fund and the Lewin Group suggests that national adoption of the patient-centered medical home model could result in a $175 billion reduction in healthcare spending by 2020!
While patient care has moved away from last century’s house calls, emerging population health management initiatives are actually focusing more on home health and telemedicine. All of which increase access to appropriate caregivers when needed and build the foundation to optimal patient care.
Excerpted from Premier’s 2015 Industry Outlook, a publication highlighting specific macro-level healthcare trends.