“Despite the high importance currently placed on chronic disease management and patient wellness, most primary care providers say they don’t have enough time to address these issues with their older populations.” — Sara Heath, "Primary Care Time Constraints Limit Chronic Disease Management," PatientEngagementHit.com
The aging baby boomer population is exposing traditional primary care service models. Providers simply don’t have the time and resources to treat complex health issues, especially for patients with multiple chronic diseases. In a recent article from Patient Engagement HIT, writer Sara Heath discusses a survey of providers and Medicare patients that highlights many of these issues. Here’s what they found.
Healthcare spending driven by chronic care management
According to the survey cited in the article, “Seventy-one percent of all healthcare spending is dedicated to chronic care management.” That’s a staggering number when you consider that the Medicare population is only growing. And as they get older, the chances of developing multiple chronic conditions only increase. But for all the money spent on chronic care management, it isn’t creating results.
Providers are short on time
It takes time to truly care for a patient’s whole health and develop a comprehensive care plan. In traditional primary care systems, that’s time that most providers don’t have. “Eighty-five percent of providers said they don’t have enough time to address all their patients’ clinical concerns and 66 percent said they can’t address behavioral concerns”, writes Heath. Those behavioral concerns are critical, especially when you consider that “80 percent of chronic conditions can be attributed to social determinants of health.”
When patients don’t have time to communicate all their health issues, minor issues are far more likely to develop into serious problems further down the road. Over time, problems compound and health deteriorates even more.
More time, better care
When providers and patients have adequate time together, they’re able to discuss all their health issues fully. The result is a personalized care plan that acknowledges a patient’s whole health, including its bio, psycho, and social components. A shift toward a primary care model that recognizes this is crucial if providers want to be capable of responding to the growing aging population. Heath writes, “Longer appointment times, an emphasis on both clinical and social health, and better appointment distribution based on chronic care management could improve the patient-provider relationship.”
Case study: Seattle Children’s hospital
After Seattle Children’s hospital launched a Vera Whole Health clinic, they saw dramatic results, particularly among high-risk diabetic patients. With longer appointment times, a whole health approach, and empathetic listening practices, Vera’s providers were able to offer their patients the time and attention their chronic conditions warranted, and it paid off. Health improved and overall spending dropped by $920 per member annually. This is the type of care needed to ensure baby boomers can stay healthy longer as they head into their retirement years.