By Dr. Tom Schwieterman
Arguably, the time shared between a provider and patient is the most important aspect of the healthcare journey. Physicians and care providers work with patients to conduct annual checkups, establish care plans, validate possible diagnoses and make sure chronic conditions are well managed.
With the pace of change in healthcare accelerating, there is extreme pressure on healthcare organizations to be at the forefront of this change to ensure the valuable interaction and relationships occurring at the point of care remain intact.
To that end, we have identified six trends that will significantly impact the point of care ecosystem, where the majority of today’s healthcare encounters still occur.
Connected technology and devices are allowing providers to capture more data at the point of care than was previously possible. In certain cases, home data can be more accurate and relevant, and may be invaluable to augment a future patient visit. On a larger scale, advanced analytical engines that are being used to examine genomic, population health and social determinants data are ushering in a more personalized level of care. Advanced computing capabilities, artificial intelligence and machine learning systems are being employed to determine risk profiles that allow teams to more appropriately target interventions, strengthening customized screening scenarios, insights into behavioral modifications and targeted therapeutics.
In a reversal of a trend where more care was being referred to specialists, primary care is seeing a resurgence of relevance and expanding capabilities. Primary care physicians are being empowered and better equipped to do more for their patients, including provide comprehensive and sophisticated interventions at the point of care. More emphasis is being placed on local and accessible primary care clinical talent to manage a broad array of issues. Primary care is becoming increasingly armed with smaller patient cohorts and a fully holistic approach to care.
Research has shown that a good experience with a physician or care provider is impactful to the health and well-being of patients. The quality of interaction patients have with providers and the broader care team can translate to a better understanding of the clinical situation and a higher likelihood of all participants becoming activated to get more involved, which can improve health and lower costs. Patients are expecting and demanding a better experience when they visit medical offices. They want the same type of experience they receive from other retail and service industries. This is driving a focus on everything from practice design for comfort, efficiencies and workflow to technology that enables better patient care plans.
Driven in part by the consumerization of healthcare, patients are demanding to be connected with and in control of their healthcare in the same way they are within other aspects of their lives. Wearable technology, online clinical information, vastly expanded options for care access, and new technologies to diagnose and treat at the individual level are changing how people engage in their healthcare. Self-guided and self-diagnosis care are becoming plausible options. Pressure is growing for healthcare organizations to incorporate technologies like smart watches, fitness tracker and apps that help patients manage chronic conditions to allow patients to be more proactive with their own healthcare.
Traditionally, insurance companies have existed to manage risk within populations of healthcare patients. The insurer absorbed the risk while the provider was guaranteed a payment mechanism. The advent of value-based payments is causing a change to that model. Increasingly, the provider is absorbing the risk. This is being done to both control costs and align the interests of stakeholders. This shifting of risk is changing the relationship between vendors, payers, providers and healthcare systems in fundamental ways. These players are beginning to work more closely together to improve value. More equipment, technology and solutions are being designed to boost the clinical and financial performance of providers while improving patient health.
It is important that care providers stay up on the trends impacting the point of care ecosystem and strive to understand how those trends are evolving primary care. Only then will healthcare organizations be better positioned to maintain the integrity of the valuable interactions and relationships occurring at the point of care.