The AMA Journal of Ethics reports that despite having the world’s most costly healthcare, the U.S. ranks 26th for life expectancy and quite poorly on other patient care indicators. More than a third of the health care services clinicians deliver do not improve patients’ health or quality of life. Reducing aggressive patient care that’s not cost-effective has become a national priority.
This priority requires healthcare professionals to implement ongoing, holistic Care Management that extends beyond outpatient clinics and healthcare systems. Taking better care of patients and improving their outcomes becomes much easier once you’ve engaged them in their own care and partnered with their families and communities.
That’s why we’ve compiled a list of 13 steps that your clinicians can take to start improving patient care today.
Best practices for taking better care of patients
The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) reports that patient-centered care has been correlated with reduced pain and discomfort, faster physical and emotional recovery, as well as improved outcomes and quality of life.
Follow these core principles to improve your team’s patient care and health outcomes:
1. Show respect
Like you, your patients have direct and indirect needs and desires that affect patient outcomes. Their level of medical education, financial constraints, transportation availability, and care access influence their choices and their patient experience.
Acknowledging and taking care of patient concerns demonstrates that you see them as humans with unique needs. This kind of patient care may also help motivate them to respect their health journey and follow their care plan.
Not sure how to start practicing this type of patient care? Harvard Medical School researchers have identified eight principles that guide patient-centered care plans. Respect fuels all of them.
2. Express gratitude
You’re grateful to have a practice where you can take care of patients and help them achieve their health goals. Express that gratitude to them every chance you get. A simple, “Thanks for choosing our practice” goes a long way, especially when it’s accompanied by small things like eye contact and the patient’s name. The Clinical Advisor reports that medical professionals who apply these basic social skills generate much higher patient satisfaction scores.
Ideal patient care addresses basic human needs. Ask each individual patient and each patient’s family about their preferences, goals, and expectations. When you trust them as a healthcare partner, they’re more likely to trust your recommendations and become loyal patients.
Reward that loyalty with milestone and holiday celebration treats or gift certificates when a patient refers a friend or when a patient’s family member helps spread the word about your expertise. When you demonstrate your appreciation regularly, you’ll reap the economic benefits of the patient-centered care model: more referrals.
3. Enable access to care
To enhance the care of patient populations across regions, ethnicities, and social classes, medical professionals have transcended the boundaries of the traditional medical environment to address the social determinants of health.
Persistent, long-term factors like education, social position, income, and living environment play a significant role in promoting patient care and preventing or reducing disease effects. Addressing these (often subtle) determinants will improve patient outcomes. To do so, care team members must know a patient’s medical history and implement patient care technology that helps prevent errors and encourages care plan compliance.
It’s critical to make appointment scheduling quick and easy. A future patient should never be left to wait on hold or have to click five times on your website just to contact you or schedule an appointment.
Platforms designed for patient care automate this function — they even send thank-you and welcome messages to new patients after they’ve booked an appointment. Care Management software will enable you to seamlessly manage patient care compassionately while meeting the needs of each individual patient and each patient’s family members who may be assisting with decision-making and care plan implementation.
4. Involve patients’ family members and friends
According to the AMA Journal of Ethics, taking care of patients requires embracing the support and contributions of every patient’s family and loved ones.
Family-centered medical professionals allow competent patients and their caretakers to participate in healthcare decision-making. The concept of patient-centered care emphasizes the context and broader life experiences that can either generate illness or enable healing.
As care plans become more collaborative, medical professionals are becoming more proficient in patient-centered care communication. Providers in all specialties are learning to listen, facilitate choice, share information, build trust, and promote compliance — enabling them to expend time and energy more efficiently. When they explain the potential benefits and adverse effects of care plan medication to the patient’s family, providers generate the trust that enhances the patient experience.
5. Coordinate patient care with other providers
Although your patient care coordination platform will be customized for your healthcare setting, all successful patient-centered care follows the same core principles. Patient data and messaging are shared at all levels of the organization. When medical professionals in primary care, urgent care, long-term care, and specialty care address food, pain management, housing, transportation, as well as mental and behavioral health challenges, they’re practicing whole-person care.
Because primary care planners, nursing homes, hospitals, social services agencies, and religious institutions directly impact patient care, it makes sense for all of them to collaborate to take more holistic care of patients and of each patient’s family. To do so effectively, they need Care Management platforms that enable communication between health care settings.
These platforms can also track patient care, identify opportunities, give patients access to their own medical records, enhance patient communication with medical professionals, and improve care plan compliance.
6. Provide emotional support
To improve patient experience, medical professionals in all specialties provide emotional support for patients, even in the most difficult situations. Ideal patient care entails a bit of psychology; it requires picking up on cues to determine how open each individual patient is to various types of support.
Do they just need you to listen and consider the research they’ve done? Do they want to know you relate and that you’ll accompany them through their struggles? Do they expect honesty and vulnerability when they realize you don’t have all the answers? Would a moment of silence be appropriate? Holding their hand through a teary-eyed moment?
Taking care of patients is a science and an art — let instinct and experience guide you. Rather than disrupting your workflow, you’ll see that connecting with the patient will, in the end, enhance it. It will make you feel valued, trusted, and needed. There’s no better way to build loyalty and referrals while reaping the personal rewards of your profession.
7. Engage patients in their care plan
By encouraging questions and demonstrating that you’re always open to new ideas, you’ll inspire patient-centered care communication and put your patient’s family at ease. When you educate them about their condition and treatment choices, you empower them to partner with you. Show them models and diagrams, refer them to websites and videos, and share case studies of the kind of patient outcomes they’re striving for.
Request feedback in another way to engage and take care of patients. Whether that means asking them how they felt about their appointment, administering phone surveys, or establishing patient advisory committees to suggest improvements, hearing from them will help each medical professional on your care team thrive.
8. Address your patients’ physical needs
Whether they need pain management or daily exercise, patients appreciate continual guidance, reminders, and motivation. Whether you work in primary care, specialty care, emergency care, or long-term care, optimal patient care requires keeping physical needs and comforts top-of-mind.
Hospitals and offices are already uncomfortable, unfamiliar spaces in which to practice patient care. To prevent your facility from being an obstacle to healing, enhance the coordination of patient-centered care — including pain management. Ideal patient care requires helping weak or anxious patients with necessary tasks, creating a soothing, restorative environment, then checking in post-appointment to make sure their patient experience was conducive to healing.
When your patients are active, well-fed, and well-rested, they may have more energy to channel into care plan compliance. Patient care to address mental illness requires medical professionals to accommodate emotional needs. Older patients may have higher physical demands that affect their ability to comply. Each individual patient deserves a custom care plan to nurture their basic physical needs. And each patient’s family deserves to be heard and engaged in care plan compliance.
9. Support your patients’ mental health
The National Institute of Mental Health has found that physical trauma and chronic health dysfunctions can trigger depression or anxiety. Side effects of medications used to treat those dysfunctions can also disrupt brain chemistry and cause these conditions.
Stress, for example, can stimulate the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which controls mood, digestion, immune response, and energy expenditure. Patients experiencing Parkinson’s disease, thyroid disorders, or beta-blocker side effects often report symptoms that mimic depression. According to Science Daily, antidepressants can also cause anxiety. To take care of patients, be aware of warning signs when building your patient relationships. Provide sensitive patient-centered care until you can consult a mental health professional.
By implementing a patient Care Management system, your team can provide mental healthcare across facilities and enable various medical professionals to help address mental health issues — regardless of their training. A software program designed for patient care can relieve the burden of mental health screening, assessment, and specialist referrals. It lets you provide better patient care with fewer administrative tasks.
10. Help your patients manage their medications
Because medications have so many potential contraindications and affect each individual patient differently, it’s important to teach medication management and to offer alternative pain management options. Give each patient and each patient’s family a complete and accurate medication list.
Once it’s accessible to all stakeholders on a Care Management platform, it will be easier to address medication reconciliation issues. Specialized next-generation software can help to identify behaviors that may put patients at risk for overdosing, underdosing, or missing medications. It will give all care team members context about what may be interfering with prescription adherence.
11. Deliver quality patient experiences
Enhancing the patient experience requires that you focus on all touchpoints a patient has with your healthcare system. Take care of patients by ensuring they experience quick, compassionate treatment and pleasant interactions with each medical professional along the way. Interactions, culture, and patient perceptions about your continuum of care are critical to value-based care models, which are becoming more popular in the healthcare industry.
12. Practice whole-person care
The whole-person care model addresses dysfunction and pain management in outpatient integrative clinics, medical centers, and hospitals. This model is being integrated into conventional medicine guidelines and is most often recommended to address chronic pain, diabetes, obesity, and the repercussions of the opioid crisis.
Patient care that nurtures the physical, mental, spiritual, and environmental factors that can trigger dysfunction creates a more effective (and less expensive) pathway to chronic condition and pain management. Successful patient-centered care examples abound in clinics that embrace whole-person care for these common dysfunctions.
13. Streamline Care Management with technology
Ideal patient care promotes activities that educate patients so they can manage their health conditions more effectively. Successfully implementing inter-team care delivery requires streamlining patient care as well as provider communication.
Care Management reduces the need for repetitive medical services and improves patient outcomes. It makes patient care coordination and clinical treatment easier and less stressful by eliminating duplication and enabling patients to improve their quality of life, one message at a time.
If you want to improve patient outcomes, reach more patients, prevent team burnout, lower the costs of patient care, and improve quality of life for patients and providers, consider implementing patient-centered care technology at your practice.
How technology can improve patient care
Healthcare delivery that promotes well-being doesn’t stop at the doors of your medical center. Optimal patient care requires the kind of ongoing communication and education that only a robust healthcare-centric technology platform can enable. It takes software designed specifically for Care Management and for clinicians who prioritize outcomes.
The National Institutes of Health reports that high-quality patient care requires appropriate infrastructure, training, care team competence, and health IT efficiency.
A patient-centered platform makes taking care of patients more efficient and satisfying by cutting down on repetitive administrative tasks to allow more time and energy for the care of patient priorities — like education — that enables them to manage their own care.
The right Care Management software will assist your care team with the following:
Healthcare accessibility — both in medical centers and in healthcare provider clinics — should constantly be expanding. Care Management software can help improve access to healthcare with patient-centered communication features and telehealth options that bring patient care to where the patient is.
Waiting times for high-demand patient care services have been too long for decades. Researchers have been addressing this issue by continually reviewing patient surveys and other data, then applying this feedback to restructure patient care in healthcare systems.
When much of patient engagement — appointment scheduling, patient onboarding, symptom checking, and biomarker testing — can be executed outside the office with Care Management software, the time spent in the office is minimized, as is clinician burnout. When patients and clinicians can accomplish more in less time, all in-office appointments are streamlined and wait times are shortened.
Care Management systems intelligently assign necessary team members to address patient needs at the right moment in order to maximize your most precious resource – your care team’s time — so that less of it is spent on administrative tasks and more on patient care.
Satisfying individual patient needs and addressing concerns of the patient’s family early on in the care plan can help eliminate frustration and anxiety. Optimally managing treatment requires communications through a variety of modalities. Omnichannel capabilities support check-ins through every step of care — they give clinicians peace of mind that they’re never missing a message and that they’re meeting patients where they are.
The immediate care of patient needs requires more than just clinical treatments delivered by medical professionals. Communication-enabling technology, pain management, food, and mobility assistance should all be accessible features in patient care for each individual patient and for the patient’s family. Social-emotional and behavioral support are critical as well. A robust Care Management platform can help care teams manage and oversee ancillary services holistically without wasting time.
Extend the reach of your care team
Medical professionals in all specialties can extend the reach of their patient care by taking these simple but transformative steps:
Telehealth is a term for remote healthcare delivery — including medical information and healthcare education — via telecommunications systems. According to the CDC, telehealth use went up 153% in 2020; it’s a service patients now demand and rely on.
Incorporate remote patient monitoring
Remote patient monitoring is the management of acute or chronic conditions via remote patient monitoring technology while securely collecting and exchanging patient data.
Monitoring devices have enabled medical professionals to collect real-time health data and provide relaxed virtual patient care that enhances patient experience. In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic dramatically sped up the adoption of remote patient monitoring technologies in healthcare organizations of every size and specialty.
Manage care more effectively
Care Management is a practice designed to help medical professionals improve patient care and teach patients how to manage their health conditions more effectively. Care Management programs help improve health outcomes by reducing the need for medical services. This innovative technology enhances the coordination of patient care and eliminates duplication while helping both patients and providers improve their quality of life.
Streamline patient engagement
Patient engagement enables the delivery of value-based patient care. When patients are engaged, they feel empowered to actively participate in their care plans, so their health outcomes improve — and so does your bottom line.
Coordinate patient care with the latest technology
Your patient care coordination efforts can’t improve patient care or resolve patient confusion and care team frustration if you’re using outdated tools and systems that slow down care plan implementation. Patients need to understand their diagnosis and treatment options — which requires a seamless flow of communication between care team members, the patient, and the patient’s family.
Reduce administrative burden on care teams
Welkin Health has developed a team-centric Care Management software that makes your care team’s day much more manageable — and that means more time for patient care.
Welkin allows each clinician to see each individual patient’s journey — including assessment scores, needs, preferences, and communications — in a centralized profile for complete transparency. Our innovative platform allows you to automate your patients’ assessments and send them updates and reminders. It even features email templates and educational videos so you can deliver personalized patient care.
Empower your care team to deliver outstanding patient care
Although patient-centered care was introduced to enhance patients’ wellness, it has also been a boon for healthcare professionals in all specialties. Embracing a more humanistic way of interacting, listening with an open mind, acknowledging patients’ views, and engaging every patient’s family will improve the care of patient populations that may have been considered challenging to treat in the past. It will also boost your care team’s career satisfaction.
With the help of next-generation Care Management technology, implementing patient-centered care is now easier than ever. Patient care software programs can ensure that each care team is up to speed on medical history, symptoms, patient preferences, and care plan stages. Patient Relationship Management (PRM) systems simplify workflows so providers can focus on what really matters — improving patient outcomes.
To facilitate (and enjoy) patient-centered care while growing your practice, read our guide to patient-centered Care Management.