Patient-provider relationships take time to develop; but once they’re established, they can greatly benefit employee health. Promoting engagement between your employees and their primary care providers (PCPs) also decreases long-term health care costs that, in turn, yield lower premiums.
Value-Based Care and Relationship-Building Between Patients and Providers
Patient-provider relationships characterized by open communication, empathy and shared decision-making have always been important. But now, with the transition to value-based payment models that reward quality over quantity, these relationships are paramount. Physicians receive financial incentives when they contain costs and keep patients healthy. Strong relationships with patients — particularly those that withstand the test of time — help physicians accomplish these goals.
One recent study found that relationship continuity has a number of benefits, from decreasing mental and physical health care needs and utilization of health care services to reducing errors and adverse events. Sustained engagement between patients and providers can also increase patient satisfaction and trust, lower health care costs and — of course — improve patient health and quality of life.
Why PCP-Employee Engagement Is Important
Why does all of this matter for your business? Engagement is critical, firstly, because it helps your employees stay healthy. When they like and trust their providers, your employees are more likely to follow through with preventive screenings, take their medications properly and seek care immediately upon feeling ill. This means fewer missed work days and more productive members of your team.
Strong provider relationships also increase the potential for lower premium costs. PCP-employee engagement fosters early detection that can make a big difference with long-term costs that health plans use to establish premium amounts. Seeing a PCP can also be less expensive than seeing a specialist. Again, it’s about keeping costs down with the goal of lowering premiums.
Finally, it’s what your employees want. Strong patient-provider relationships are exactly what employees look for in an increasingly fragmented health care system. They want consistency and stability. They want providers who take an interest in their well-being, listen to their concerns, explain concepts clearly and spend a reasonable amount of time with them. Physicians and patients agree that patient-provider relationships are the most important determinant of quality care, according to the Council of Accountable Physician Practices. In essence, there is no “quality” without these critical relationships.
How to Promote PCP-Employee Engagement
Employers can set the stage for engagement by taking these three steps:
- Help employees understand why having a PCP is important. It’s about being able to spot trends more easily, leading to early detection and even life-saving treatments.
- Help employees choose the right PCP. Direct them to your insurer’s physician directory to help choose the doctor best suited to meet the employee’s need. Along with making sure potential PCPs are in network and have any relevant specialties, urge your employees to seek out doctors they feel comfortable discussing their questions and concerns with. If they can’t establish trust, the relationship won’t develop.
- Choose a health plan that provides incentives (for instance, a credit on the premium or deductible) for employees undergoing routine and preventive services.
Patient-provider relationships are the key to lowering costs and keeping employees healthy. Employers that promote and support these relationships could see long-term cost containment and increased employee satisfaction.