As provider organizations adapt to the value-based model as a way of improving patient care, they’re focusing increasingly on preventive services, collaboration and digital tools. But to achieve these better outcomes, physicians, hospitals and health care organizations are reimagining some of the ways they deliver care.
As a result, your employees should expect to see a few changes. Here are three they may encounter during the transition to value-based care.
1. More Time With the Team, Less With the Doctor
Instead of completing every task themselves, physicians are delegating to other highly skilled, licensed clinicians, including physician assistants, nurse practitioners, on-site clinical pharmacists, behavioral health professionals and dietitians. PAs and NPs are taking on more responsibility for improving patient care. Some are handling as much as 80% of the responsibilities previously performed by physicians, thereby allowing physicians to “focus on the most complex patients and procedures,” according to the consulting firm Merritt Hawkins.
In particular, NPs and PAs are playing a crucial role in helping patients manage chronic conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Their increased role frees up physicians to focus on their specialties while lowering overall health care costs, since NPs and PAs are paid less. By addressing ongoing care management, they help patients avoid more costly critical care interventions in the future. They’re also playing a larger role in some specialties, especially in oncology, according to the American Society of Clinical Oncology. This makes sense as high survival rates increasingly make cancer a chronic disease.
An aging population that is taking more medications, coupled with the increased use of specialty drugs, has created new roles for clinical pharmacists on the primary care team. They can evaluate how well a patient is doing on their medication regimen and recommend changes.
When behavioral health professionals are part of the team, the physician can rely on them as needed and introduce them to a patient who requires counseling or other services. This allows the physician to focus on more acute care needs without having to make an outside referral.
So, does this mean your employees are being treated by second-rate providers? Absolutely not. Research published in the journal Medical Care found that NPs and PAs delivered care that was equivalent to a physician’s.
2. More Convenient Appointments and Virtual Visits
The acceptance of NPs and PAs is helping usher in the benefit of improved access, as one expert told Becker’s Hospital Review. With more providers available, it’s easier for your employees to schedule appointments at times that work for them.
Plus, not every “visit” will require a trip to the clinic since patients are now able to connect to providers via video. This is a less expensive and more convenient option for everyone involved. And for your employees, it saves time and eliminates transportation challenges. Many practices and health systems already support telehealth, and more are coming online as they see virtual visits as another approach to improving patient care.
Keep in mind that although virtual visits are a net positive, some of your employees may be distrustful of or nervous about these not quite face-to-face encounters. It’s important that they understand the advantages of these visits, as part of improving patient care is improving access.
3. Fewer Tests
Expect doctors to be performing fewer tests. This trend is an excellent example of how greater efficiency delivers better outcomes. Too often, because care is uncoordinated, different doctors may order the same test for a patient. Or perhaps a physician orders an array of tests for a patient who really doesn’t require all of them.
Modern Healthcare reports that providers are using electronic health records to identify redundant and unnecessary tests. This not only increases efficiency and saves money, but it’s also better for patients. Some tests can have harmful side effects or lead to unnecessary treatment, according to research published in JAMA Internal Medicine. The researchers found, too, that having fewer tests also improves patient satisfaction. In terms of improving patient care, sometimes less is more.
Changes for the Better
These three examples are just a few of the changes your employees can expect from transitions to value-based care.
Value-based models work. For example, Blue Cross Blue Shield data shows that effective value-based care can lead to better outcomes. Its Blue Distinction Total Care program resulted in 10% fewer emergency department visits than for other providers, and a 15% drop in hospitalizations year over year. TriHealth and Anthem note that their value-based health care partnership has led to increased preventive care and lower costs for employers, as the Cincinnati Business Courier reports. We also know that patients in value-based models are more likely to take their meds and stick to their care plans.
As a recently published Health Affairs study reveals, consumers are wary of value-based models, so it may take a bit of education to get all employees on board. But the changes are relatively small, and they’re in the service of something much bigger. Such changes amount to better access, less unnecessary care and a greater focus on prevention, improving patient care in ways that control costs.