Investing in primary care improves health outcomes and lowers costs. But, there’s a catch. It has to be the right primary care. Too many healthcare providers get it wrong for many of the same reasons. Want to find out how they do it? Here’s our go-to guide for making primary care fail.
Set ridiculous productivity goals
Make sure that your providers and patients spend as little time as possible with one another. You don’t want to give them the opportunity to discuss all their health concerns. Seven minutes should be sufficient for patients to communicate their most acute problem and for providers to scribble out a prescription.
Penalize high-risk patients
Patients with chronic illnesses and other risk factors should be penalized with high costs so that they’re less likely to use primary care services. After all, they’re the ones who account for the majority of healthcare costs, right?
Bank on hidden fees
Lure people in with "free" preventive care that stops being free as soon as a problem is found. Once a provider finds an issue, you can start coding and billing to fix that problem.
Under staff clinics
Keep clinics short-staffed so that providers, medical assistants, and nurses are always stretched thin. Operating clinics with minimal staff and time also ensures that patients can only get appointments when they have major issues. For minor issues, the schedule should be so full that they won’t be able to see a provider for days or weeks. Bonus points if the clinic is only open a few days a week.
Offer only high deductible plans
High deductible plans encourage patients to only use their primary care services when absolutely necessary. Because of the high costs associated with simple visits, patients will avoid their source of primary care as much as possible. Patients will only come in if their problems are urgent or if they develop into chronic issues, resulting from a consistent lack of medical attention.
OR ... do it the right way
You don't have to follow the bad advice above. Set up your primary care to succeed. Foster a clinical experience that gives patients and providers the resources they need to form meaningful relationships. Train providers and health coaches to use empathetic listening so they truly listen to a patient's health concerns and work with them to develop personalized care plans.
Make primary care services, not just preventive care, free and unlimited so that engagement increases. Empower patients to use their primary care more frequently so that they actually get healthier, reducing overall healthcare costs. That's what happened at Vera’s Seattle Children’s hospital clinic, where an increase in patient engagement and primary care visits resulted in lower overall healthcare costs, especially for high-risk populations. Read more about this in our white paper: Two truths about patient engagement and healthcare costs.