As a medical transcription company, we are focused on providing accurate and timely clinical documentation support for physicians so that they can focus on patient care. However, recent reports indicate that meeting increased patient demand is a challenge. A study released by the Association of American Medical Colleges in 2017 estimated that the United States will face a shortage of between 40,800 and 104,900 primary care physicians by 2030. Meeting the needs of a growing and aging population will be difficult, especially since about half of all adults in the US have at least one chronic condition, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
So how can physicians deal with these concerns and meet patient demand? The solution lies in adopting a proactive approach and implementing effective strategies to satisfy the modern patient’s needs and expectations.
Use a patient portal: A patient portal connected to the practice EHR can improve patient engagement. This secure online website that patients can access using a username and password, will give patients 24-hour internet access to their personal health information (PHI). They can use the portal to view information such as recent office visits, medications, immunizations, allergies, discharge summaries and lab results. Physicians Practice notes that a patient portal will reduce the need for constant calling by putting requests for prescription refills and other matters online. Patient portals improve patient-provider communication, empower patients, support care between visits, and improve practice workflow. Most important, with a patient portal, you can attend to patients when they need you,improving patient outcomes.
Provide virtual visits: Virtual visits or telemedicine allow patients to get care without having to leave their home. Today’s patients are actually “healthcare consumers”, and among other things, want convenient access to care. Virtual visits provide the answer. With telemedicine, care managers can better monitor patients with chronic conditions. Patients can upload their health data to the e-platform and stay on top of managing their condition. Virtual visits also provide cost benefits as they reduce the number of patients who end up unnecessarily being admitted to a hospital or coming to the emergency department because they did not have ongoing care.
According to Modern Healthcare, PCPs spend an average of 14 to 16 minutes on in-office patient visits. With telemedicine platforms, the patient visits can be cut down to an average of two minutes. A 2017 Virtual Visits Consumer Choice Survey conducted by the Advisory Board which included over 5,000 patients across the country, found that 77% of patients are willing to conduct a virtual care encounter, and 19% have already done so. Medical Economics notes that though virtual visits will not replace in-person care, they can effectively complement care and boost patient satisfaction.
Allow patients to schedule appointments online: Online appointment scheduling software allows patients to book and reschedule appointments and services at own convenience – anytime, anywhere and on any device. Facilitating real time online scheduling will help patients schedule appointments for diagnostic tests, physician consultation and treatment, thereby allowing you to devote more time to patient care. Extending hours of appointment scheduling will improve patient access to care. Appointment scheduling options include apps, having a scheduler installed in your EHR or portal, or using third-party software. Allowing patients to schedule visits online will free up your time, so that you can see more patients and develop strategies to improve workflow.
Use preferred modes of communication: Physicians should identify and use the communication methods preferred by various demographic groups to ensure they stay engaged with the practice. Do patients prefer to receive their reminders via text, email or phone call? EHRs vendors can help physicians create automated reminders using multiple methods quite easily.
Enhance online presence: Physicians need to be visible online. They should update their profiles and make sure they have accurate information. Having a social media presence improves patient-physician interaction and provides opportunities for patient education. However, you must exercise caution with sharing online and responding to patient comments. Mayo Clinic cautions physicians against violating patient privacy and revealing too much personal information.
Explore new opportunities to improve patient access to care: PCPs need to study patient needs in depth and evaluate emerging market trends to improve access to care. Ask your patients if there is anything you can do better to meet their expectations. Medical Economics recommends the following strategies:
- Add critical care services by setting up an urgent care center
- Open offices in underserved areas
- Reevaluate office hours and make changes to suit patient demand
Finally, improving clinical documentation will allow physicians to see more patients in less time. Medical transcription services enhance the ability of EHRs to meet clinical documentation needs. Reliable medical transcription outsourcing companies provide consistent, robust EHR-integrated clinical documentation support to improve care, increase practice efficiency, and boost physician reimbursement.