Physicians often find themselves coordinating follow-up care for their patients. Unfortunately, not all of them do it well.
June Scarlett, Formativ Health’s Chief Patient Access Officer, offers the example of a primary care doctor who is looking to refer one of her patients to a cardiologist. “Because the doctor doesn’t know much about the cardiologists in her medical group,” Scarlett explains, she “makes a referral to someone she knows—a medical school classmate or someone she socializes with, perhaps.” Unfortunately, this cardiologist “works in a town that is inconvenient for the patient, or he lacks the necessary expertise to deal with the patient’s specific issues, or he simply doesn’t accept the patient’s insurance.”
This kind of poor coordination can cause patients to miss out on the care they need. It can also produce a negative customer experience that may cause patients to leave the practice or group.
Moreover, Scarlett says, “the burden of coordinating follow-up care can have a profound and negative effect on a physician, often leading to provider burnout.” Much of the problem lies with the difficulty many providers have in sharing patient information with each other. When doctors lack the necessary information to effectively coordinate care, Scarlett says, they “often make poor decisions about referrals and treatments. As a result, patients spend more time in the hospital, costs rise, and doctors burn out.”
To relieve the burden, she adds, “doctors and groups need to put centralized systems in place that allow for easy access to patient clinical records.” Such a system should enable doctors and staff to identify patients in need of recommended care and to monitor their progress. The system should also allow practices to create customized notifications for their patients and to handle the scheduling of tests, treatments, and visits with specialists.
These centralized tracking and communications systems are available to all practices. Scarlett states that healthcare organizations “need this technology to make things more streamlined, but they also need a robust attention to personal interactions and customer service.” When centralized systems and good customer service are combined in a practice, she says, physicians are relieved of the coordination burden, stress and burnout are reduced, and patients receive better care.
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