The healthcare environment in the US today is in flux as changes to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and proposed new policies have been debated and rejected. A physician shortage looms over the primary care field. Physician burnout is on the increase. Healthcare costs are rising. However, there is good news! A recent poll conducted by the Pew Research Center has found that “the public continues to hold healthcare providers in high regard.”
The survey, conducted in the spring of 2016, found that 87% of those patients who had seen a healthcare provider in the previous year felt that “their concerns or descriptions of symptoms were carefully listened to, and 84% say they felt their provider really cared about (their) health and well-being.” In addition, 80% felt “their doctor really cared about their health/well-being.”
With the emphasis on value-based care, and the movement away from fee-for-service reimbursement, primary care physicians are finding that these quality numbers are becoming more important. Patient engagement is crucial to improved healthcare outcomes, benefiting the patient and the practice.
On the downside, 23% of those surveyed felt that they were “rushed by their healthcare provider.” 15% “felt confused about instructions they got for treatment or at-home care.” While these numbers are encouraging, communication with patients during and after the visit can help increase the number of patients who clearly understand instructions for how they are to continue their own care at home.
In addition, the use of technology tools such as electronic health records (EHRs) can give the primary care physician more time during the visit to focus on and listen to the patient. The EHR provides the primary care physician immediate access to previous visit notes, lab results, and data input by other providers caring for the patient. The independent primary care physician can spend more time with the patient and less time on paperwork and other distractions.