Improving Doctor-Patient Relationships as an Independent Primary Care Physician

This is a three-part series on the critical components you must address to maintain a thriving independent practice. Part 2 explains how technology can support you, and part 3 reviews alternative payment models.

Run a thriving primary care practice.

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Many independent primary care physicians are feeling pressured to join larger medical groups or work longer and harder to keep their independent practices. But many other independent primary care physicians across the US are flourishing by re-architecting traditional practice structures. These new patient-centric practice models are improving doctor-patient relationships and allowing doctors to focus their attention on what really matters.

Improving Doctor-Patient Relationships

Embrace Your Patients

Every patient and physician satisfaction survey shows that the single most important aspect of the practice of primary care is the relationship between physicians and their patients. Yet quality time and interaction are often the first things sacrificed in the name of “efficiency.”

If you feel that you’re unable to spend as much time with your patients as they deserve, stop everything and concentrate on that first. Patient care is why you got into medicine in the first place. It has to be non-negotiable. We’ll discuss how you’re going to “pay” for this later, in part 2, with other tasks that can be automated, delegated, or just plain avoided. But for now, figure out how much time you have and how much time your patients need. Build your staffing and financial plan around that, rather than the other way around.

Design your schedule so you can focus more on your patients. This is the one thing you can’t and don’t want to automate or delegate.

The Road to Chaos Was Paved with Well-Intentioned Incentives

A significant percentage of the maligned paradigms faced by independent primary care physicians today were accidentally introduced by well-meaning public and private reforms such as meaningful use, electronic reporting, payor reforms, quality reporting, etc. While all of these reforms had good intentions, in practice, they have produced massive problems for primary care physicians.

In reality, the needed tools, underlying infrastructure, and physicians themselves were simply not ready when these changes were forced onto the market. The technology to make all of this run smoothly was theoretically possible but not yet practical. The fine-tuning and behind-the-scenes logistics just weren’t there.

This first gold rush of EHRs was driven by VCs, IT people, and government spec sheets — not clinicians. As a result, a mercantilist philosophy took hold at many companies, with market share trumping quality concerns.

Initial EHR design was driven by VCs, IT people, and government spec sheets — not doctors.

Most EHRs were poor substitutes for day-to-day charting, much less the digital heart of the practice that doctors needed them to be. Doctors have been slow to recover from their disappointment at these early attempts to digitalize medicine. However, with the right tools and approach, physicians can now leverage digital tools to elevate their patient care, quality of life, and financial performance.

The result is an EHR that isn’t optimal to doctor workflows — bogging them down with extra work that takes them away from their patients.

Start with Your EHR

A robust EHR solution, like Elation Health, will provide the tools you need to improve practice management. Optimized practice management processes mean you spend less time completing admin tasks, submitting labs, and sending referrals, so you have more time to spend with patients. Improving doctor-patient relationships is just one piece of the puzzle — download our complete eBook to explore how you can flourish as an independent primary care physician.

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