Is Direct Primary Care failing Americans?
The U.S. still believes that face-to-face contact is the solution to solving the primary care crisis. This is the Direct Primary Care model and the model is best described as the “old fashioned” doctor-patient relationship.
For years, the primary care crisis has plagued doctors and patients who are fighting a losing battle against chronic care management in the United States. There are too few primary care physicians in the U.S. and the shortage is getting worse. More than 50 percent of primary care doctors show signs of burnout and those who are still practicing have too little time with each patient.
The average person visits their primary care doctor three times a year. The average length of each visit is 10 minutes. These short visits mean doctors are not given enough time to listen to their patients and process the information they gather through their conversations. This exercise in futility results in excess testing, unnecessary prescriptions and frequent referrals to specialists — further driving up the cost of care.
These visits add up to a grand total of 30 minutes of doctor-patient communication annually. Patients are not likely to take notes during these brief sessions and ultimately forget 85% of their conversations with their physician. This means that patients recall less than 5 minutes of the information given to them each year by their doctors.
Insurers pay relatively little for primary care. For doctors to receive reimbursement from programs like Medicaid, they shoulder the additional burden of intense administrative work. Both the method of care and reimbursement method result in additional overhead costs.
Primary Care Practices attempt to make up for this increase in overhead costs by ramping up their patient volume. The more patients a practice sees each day (without the ability to hire more administrators or physicians) results in even less face time per patient. The current Direct Primary Care model is an endless cycle that moves continuously in a downward spiral.
Americans “Pass” on Primary Care
A recent survey uncovered that not only do 50% of Americans not have a primary care physician — 50% don’t want a primary care physician. This telling statistic indicates that patients know that the primary care system is broken and is no longer working in their favor.
An annual wellness visit with a primary care physician is the first line of defense against chronic diseases. If these visits are rushed and the physician is not able to perform a proper examination then this first line of defense against chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer, or dementia is void.
Primary care physicians are trained to manage complex chronic conditions. Heart failure and diabetes alone cost nearly 80 percent of the health care dollar. Managing these chronic conditions takes time and patience on the part of doctors.
Doctors need to listen, process, and respond to the information their patients give them. Patience is especially important when treating elderly patients who suffer from multiple chronic illnesses, take multiple prescription medications, and have difficulty with hearing, vision, and cognition in many instances.
The current Direct Primary Care model in the United States does not support primary care physicians in way that allows them to be as thorough as they need to be. However, there is a way for primary care practices to see fewer patients for longer periods of time while earning a similar income.
Oculus Health: Transitional Care Management Brings ‘Cost + Convenience’ to Primary Care
Today’s patients understand ‘value’ in health care as cost plus convenience. On the most basic level, convenience is having the ability to book an appointment online. Convenience is also about leveraging the latest technology, especially mobile technology, to facilitate follow-ups with our physicians.
Patients are frustrated that they can quickly and easily review their Amazon order history for example, but cannot ‘log on’ to see notes from their most recent primary care visit or review treatment plan instructions. Many doctors are still manually taking notes and using filing systems.
Both patients and doctors want a service that quickly, accurately, and cost-effectively helps them diagnose, treat, and connect patients with the right data-driven care. Online communication (email, messaging) would ideally be the main communication mode for most patients and in-person or virtual follow ups (phone, video). This approach frees up more time for more in-depth annual wellness checks and attention and patience for elderly patients.
Oculus Health is a part of this primary care revolution, offering next-level care that benefits primary care practices, physicians, and patients. With Transitional Care Management (TCM) from Oculus Health, primary care providers can maintain their income and improve patient outcomes, if they can create effective workflows.
The Oculus Health electronic medical record (EMR) solution unit brings primary care into the 21st century by giving physicians and administrators the ability to:
- Provide comprehensive data tracking, query options, and reporting capabilities
- Provide 24/7 accessibility management services through remote communication capabilities
- Provide support for continuity of care management
- Create comprehensive care plans
The key aspect of improving the continuity and coordination of care in alignment with chronic care management is a provider’s ability to provide remote consultations or ‘telehealth’ services.
Medicare added additional telehealth procedural codes in 2014 to support chronic care management (CCM). The CCM initiative allows physicians to bill for a minimum of 20 minutes of remote interaction each month with patients and other providers in an effort to improve continuity and coordination.
To qualify for reimbursement, physicians must appropriately document each interaction. Rather than add to administrative costs and overhead in a primary care practice, this documentation is simplified with Oculus Health’s comprehensive Transitional Care Management solution.
Transitional Care Management from Oculus Health simplifies primary care delivery and puts quality, accessible health care in the hands of more patients in the United States and time and patience in the hands of more physicians. Learn more about what you can do to achieve excellence in healthcare at blog.oculushealth.com.