Unlocking Patient Access to Specialty Care
Conventional wisdom in health care typically points to increasing access to primary care as one of the biggest drivers when it comes to lowering health care spend and improving patient quality of life. It makes intuitive sense: patients with fewer barriers between them and a Primary Care Physician (PCP) probably stay healthier. However, a recent study is challenging that assumption. Researchers found that, when comparing patients in rural settings to those in urban neighborhoods, rural patients had poorer health outcomes. Again, this might make sense when one considers the likely fewer number of primary care providers in small towns, but the underlying cause the study found was surprising. Researchers discovered that access to a specialist accounted for 55% of the difference in preventable hospitalizations. Proximity to a PCP didn’t affect the numbers.
Kenton Johnston, lead author of the study told Modern Healthcare: "CMS and other health policymakers are misguided if they think that expanding access to primary-care providers alone will eliminate disparities in health outcomes for chronically ill rural Americans. The specialized skills and expertise brought by specialists for treating particular chronic conditions are necessary."
This likely comes as a surprise to many readers, but at pMD we’ve had a front-row seat to the essential role that specialists play in patient care since our company was started (our very first customer was a Cardiologist!). We’re continuing to add new ways for those practices to give their patients access to the care they need, even when those individuals might be geographically located far from the practice.
As an example, our recent release of Patient Chat Routers functionality allows practices to open up new lines of text-based communication for their patients who are enrolled in pMD® Secure Messaging™. Based on the patient’s request, the message will then be routed to a designated group or individual in the practice. This feature gives practices a seamless and efficient way to connect with their patients about appointment scheduling, test results, and health-related questions.
In 2020, we’ll leverage that foundation and continue to build additional innovative tools for our customers to utilize in order to facilitate frictionless access to care. Soon, Patient Chat Routers will be able to dynamically route messages based on a practice’s call schedule, and we hope to also expand beyond text routing into phone calls as well - something practices often have to rely on via answering services today. Our goal is to break down the barriers that prevent patients from getting the care they need!