There’s increasing evidence that a big — and long overdue — shift is happening in how we deliver medical care in this country.
We’re seeing growing recognition that the current model incentivizes all the wrong behaviors — sick care versus prevention and wellness. Virtual health was already very much substantiated pre-pandemic but COVID-19 has made it a must-have. It seems clear telehealth is now here to stay. The benefits are simply too great to backslide as we emerge from the pandemic: better access, especially for those in rural areas or without certain specialties in geographic proximity, convenience, and — for the medical community — now reimbursements. And we’re seeing a greater push for innovation in payments — like value-based purchasing (aka, pay for performance).
Meanwhile, new entrants to the healthcare space — especially startups in areas like behavioral health, opioid addiction, musculoskeletal and diabetes — are embracing care management as their operating model. The reason? It tightly integrates everyone on the care team — from the physician to the nurse practitioner to pharmacists, social workers, psychiatrists and specialists — into one team that operates seamlessly with the patient at the center. In this prevention and wellness-first orientation, care teams are able to easily — and, in the best examples, automatically — hand the patient off to the right team member at the right time. All the while, they keep the patient very much in the informed decision making space through frictionless communication elements like text, video call, email, and phone.
But achieving that tight integration requires technology; without it, care team members can’t communicate swiftly and can’t meet patient expectations for quick, clear communication.
These are the most important elements that type of platform technology should offer:
- Built with clinician input. Too many EMRs are too unwieldy — and have become the classic example of what happens when you try to please everyone: you end up pleasing no one.
- Automated workflows. The biggest benefit technology offers is taking work off a user’s plate so performance and outcomes improve. Automation is that key enabling layer that ensures that once one care team member finishes a task, it goes to the right teammate immediately. This removes the administrative burden on the team so no one gets distracted or forgets to move a patient forward.
- Alerting and engagement mechanisms. Because automated workflows take human error off the board, it means that there’s a reason when the patient falls off — it’s not because a care team member lost sight of them. Something is going on with that patient and the system should alert the care team to that fact and make it frictionless to follow up with them. That’s particularly true in areas like opioid and behavioral health; a patient no-show is something that requires immediate action.
- No more than what’s needed. Just like precision in dosing is critical in medicine, serving up the right amount of information — and no more — is crucial. From decision making to information overload, fatigue is real — and it’s precisely what care teams don’t need in their mission to provide holistic patient care.
- Prioritize a logical flow and secure communications. A patient care flow should be comprehensive, logical and intuitive so no matter what’s going on with a patient, it’s very clear what is going on — and what needs to happen next. A communications center that ensures modern, secure methods of communication is also fundamental to getting this right.
The care management approach is emerging at a time when there’s broad recognition for the need for change in status quo healthcare. And with robust, thoughtful technology tailored with this community first and foremost in mind, it can really be a gamechanger for clinicians — and ultimately, the patients they serve.