Strategies to improve care quality and access for independent practices

Understanding a patient’s complete medical profile, including social determinants, is a necessary step to truly treating the patient effectively. Chronically ill patients, in particular, need more attention and stress the healthcare system in the process. For independent practices, treating chronically ill patients can be especially taxing. Of course, independent physicians are focused on improving patient outcomes for all of their patients and so may benefit from a few strategies to improve that care quality.

Care coordination is an essential strategy for independent practices. Collaborating with a patient’s specialty providers, labs, and healthcare facilities is crucial to the overall patient care plan. Chronically ill patients, especially, may see multiple providers and need to undergo a number of tests or procedures.

Kim Ingram, writing in MedCitizens, states that “chronic illnesses now affect more than half of all Americans, and one in four has at least two chronic conditions.” Unless the independent physician is able to easily access information from these other providers, the patient picture is incomplete. That can lead to excessive, expensive, and sometimes unsafe gaps and repetition.

Ingram adds that “it is critical that everyone on the healthcare continuum … should be looking at new ways to promote more effective care coordination and collaboration programs.” In fact, The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) lists as one of its Quality Strategy goals:  “Promote effective communication and coordination of care.”

How can the independent physician move toward coordination and collaboration, to improve patient care quality? Communication – with patients and with other providers – will help ensure that the primary care physician understands the full medical profile. Patients are encouraged to ask questions, to provide input, and to become an active participant in their own care.

Optimizing an EHR system for independent practices will also aid the independent physician in gaining easy access to patient data. When using an EHR, the physician need only review the information on the screen to see specific patient information, lab results, and notes from a previous visit.

Seamless, cloud-based access to patient records and true collaboration are key strategies for independent practices to improve their patient care quality. It all starts with that very important communication, with the patient and with other providers, to gain a true comprehensive understanding of the patient’s medical profile.