What’s All the Hype about Being Patient-Centered?

Lea Chatham August 13th, 2013

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By Judy Capko

Judy Capko discusses patient centered care for Kareo

Patient-centered? “Of course I’m patient-centered” a physician recently told me. That’s why I’m a doctor. “Since he is a client and I have seen him in action, I couldn’t agree more. He treats his patients well; he is precise, is a great diagnostician and communicates well with his patients. He enjoys his patients and it shows. So should he be concerned about all the hype coming our way with government mandates that focus on providing patient-centered care?

Most healthcare professionals assume they are patient-centered and they will confidently defend this. The problem is each person’s view is subjective and their actual description of what it takes to be patient-centered is quite different. Another equally important consideration is that although physicians and their practice team believe they are patient-centered they may never have talked about it or set specific criteria to deliver it consistently.

It’s a brave new world. Healthcare reform has moved the patient-centered concept to a new level. In the future physician payments from CMS, The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, will be based on meeting certain patient care and patient service standards. Patients are now completing surveys to rate the patient experience based on a specific date of service.

CMS does not stand alone in this effort, many private health plans are moving forward with their own initiatives that adjust payment, sometimes offering and added payment bonuses, based on physician ratings.

The most important thing a medical practice or other healthcare organization can do to adjust to this new payment arena is to be prepared. Find out as much as you can about the patient-centered initiatives that impact you and take strategic steps to ensure you are ready for the patient-centered movement. Communicate with your staff and help them understand what is needed to ensure patient care and service is not compromised, no matter how busy the day is.

Line-staff can be so wrapped up in the technical details of what must be accomplished with each patient’s visit that it can be all too easy to forget to properly greet the patient, smile and make them feel welcome—steps that greatly impact how the patient rates their experience. Just think about all the steps employees must complete related to each patient visit:

  • Appointment reminders;
  • Completing patient check-in;
  • Updating insurance information;
  • Collecting co-pays;
  • Answering patients questions;
  • Obtaining an accurate patient history—the reason for the visit and related symptoms;
  • Rooming the patient and making sure they are doctor-ready;
  • Providing post visit instructions;
  • Scheduling ancillary studies; and
  • Scheduling follow-up visits.

It’s easy to see how managing on all these details can become the primary focus of the interaction with the patient, but these are not necessarily what the patient sees as being the primary reason they are satisfied with their patient visit. They want to feel important and be reassured. They want to know you care about them as individuals, and they don’t want to have to wait for an appointment when they are sick.

There are some things you may not even realize can turn an appointment south. For example, the visit will not be viewed well by a patient if they are not properly greeted or if the doctors asks “so why are we seeing you today?” He explained this at the time he scheduled the appointment and just finished repeating it (in detail) to the nurse when he was roomed. His confidence may wane as he wonders why this practice isn’t communicating better and may even wonder if this practice has its act together.

Here are a few things you can do to engage the patient, make him feel more comfortable and make the patient experience much better.

  1. Introduce yourself to new patients
  2. Repeat the patient’s name throughout the visit
  3. Have a morning huddle where you review the schedule and get a clear understanding of why each patient is coming in
  4. Reassure patients that seem anxious, especially when they are new patients. Let them know they picked the right practice and are in good hands. Front desk staff can reduce the patients’ anxiety by simply saying, “Our patients love Dr. Nice and I am sure you will too.” Also, give them an idea how long the wait will be once they are roomed or let the know what to expect. For example, in a retina practice let them know if you will be doing preliminary tests before they see the physician and how much time is involved.
  5. Read the chart note before entering the exam room.
  6. End each visit by saying thank you and asking if there is anything else you can do.

These simple steps are a great beginning for making the patient feel important and also contribute to grounding the patient relationship and improving patient compliance.

Technology will also play an important role in reaching high performance levels with patient care and patient service as it relates to being more patient centric. To learn more, watch my recent Patient-Centered Practice webinar.

About the Author

Judy Capko discusses patient centered care for Kareo

Judy Capko is a practice management and healthcare industry consultant with Capko & Company. Judy is the author of Secrets of the Best-Run Practices, a best-seller in the healthcare market. Her consulting focus is on building patient-centered strategies, improving leadership and valuing staff’s contribution.

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