Written by: Auren Weinberg M.D., M.B.A.
The push of healthcare into retail sites continues. Combined with the ongoing use of virtual care despite the wane of COVID-19, these changes in healthcare delivery are likely here to stay. It’s worth considering whether these changes make American healthcare better or worse. In examining the four pillars of healthcare, here is my opinion of healthcare moving online and into retail:
We like healthcare that is available where and when we want it. Having care available at our local pharmacy, supermarket, or urgent care certainly improves our care access. Access to non-emergency care when most doctor offices are closed is also a big plus. The impact on patient care itself is a mixed bag. Having care in these settings is undoubtedly better than no care and usually better for non-emergent care than in the Emergency Department. However, the doctor or care provider likely will not know any of the patients or their histories and will not have an existing doctor-patient relationship. Experts generally agree that having a single doctor to provide consistent patient care is better than seeing a new provider each visit.
In retail and online settings, productivity is still valued the most. The entity is paid for each patient visit, so the number of visits may be incentivized. Providers are often evaluated on the number of visits and paid more to complete more. Value-based care, which pays for care quality over a number of visits, is making headway in healthcare but less so in these settings. The information gap for patients also looms large since the providers are unlikely to know the patients or have access to their health history.
Retail sites or virtual visits generally cost patients and the healthcare system less than other types of care. In particular, Emergency Department visits are more likely to result in expensive and potentially unnecessary care than in these settings. However, if a patient can reach their own personal doctor or provider who knows their history, many visits can be prevented entirely with advice by phone. Moreover, a patient’s personal doctor can often see the patient the same or the next day, which is likely the least costly outcome.
Doing virtual visits or working in a retail clinic can be rewarding. Patients are generally appreciative of the convenient care they receive. The lack of long-term doctor-patient relationships and the defined shift work can appeal to some providers. However, many providers prefer seeing fewer patients more thoroughly versus more patients less comprehensively, even if pay is impacted. Moreover, most providers are used to establishing a doctor-patient relationship and find it a very appealing aspect of healthcare work.
First, each patient should have a primary care provider who gets to know them and their health needs over regular visits. Second, when care is needed, the patient should first connect with their regular primary care provider to discuss the best course of action. Third, providers and patients should ensure that each patient has a comprehensive medical record that can be accessed at each visit regardless of visit location or type.
Veradigm has numerous products that can support both providers and patients to achieve this. Veradigm FollowMyHealth is a cloud-based, mobile-first solution that provides patients with timely and efficient access to their health information. It consolidates data from disparate electronic health record (EHR) systems to capture and create a longitudinal patient health record that can be accessed via a smartphone, tablet, or computer. It also connects patients to virtual care modalities such as email and video visits, making it easier for them to connect with a primary care provider before—or in place of—visiting a location for “retail” healthcare delivery.
Veradigm Practice Management (formerly Allscripts Practice Management) can also facilitate this process by making it easier to manage multiple providers’ schedules, including walk-in appointments, recurring appointments, and cancellations. Veradigm Practice Management is a comprehensive revenue cycle management solution for use by physician practices of all sizes and specialties. Its flexible scheduling tools can help to maximize provider schedules, boosting the practice’s operational efficiency and productivity.
Contact us to learn more about how Veradigm can help you improve your patients’ access to their health information, regardless of the time or location of their medical needs.