Industry changes such as healthcare reform and the shift toward value instead of volume are shedding light on the importance of population health management for improving patient outcomes on a large scale. One key to a comprehensive population health program is patient access. With healthcare reform now opening the door to more insured patients who have a greater say in where they go for care, having a robust patient access strategy at the center of population health initiatives is becoming paramount.
The Role of Patient Access
There are four key benefits to enhancing patient access within population health management:
- Prevents emergent situations. Ready access gets patients into care faster. While it previously could take patients six to eight weeks to schedule an appointment with a specialist, today’s patients will simply go to the emergency department (ED) or outside the health system entirely rather than wait that long. When patients choose to go outside the system, hospitals lose the ability to monitor care quality and costs, and they miss out on potential revenue. By prioritizing patent access, hospitals can avoid these negative consequences and ensure patients don’t go to the ED for preventable situations.
- Builds more effective patient engagement. Better engagement often means more patient compliance with treatment plans, especially when it comes to chronic conditions. Greater access helps strengthen compliance as a first step toward improving patient outcomes and getting patients on the road to wellness.
- Enhances patient satisfaction. When healthcare organizations make it easy for patients to interact with their providers, patients are less likely to go elsewhere for care. Increased patient satisfaction, in turn, drives up value-based physician compensation.
- Improves communication through shared records. More transparent information exchange is an essential component of an effective population health initiative. A patient portal, for instance, allows the patient and physician to communicate, share test results and ask and answer questions in a timely manner. This helps the patient avoid retests and unnecessary expense, while the provider circumvents lost reimbursement opportunities.
Providers cannot afford to ignore the need to expand patient access because it impacts not only care quality and reimbursement but also market competitiveness. In some markets, a strong access program provides a competitive edge, while in others it has become an absolute necessity for remaining current as competitors deliver easy access and consumers expect it from all market players.