Are the days of assembly-line healthcare coming to an end? Skeptics would be forgiven for doubting it, as millions of newly insured patients flood a system already burdened by access challenges.
But consider: Advances in genomics are leading to individualized treatments for cancer and other diseases; 3-D printing technology is opening new possibilities for customized medications; and the growth of a range of new healthcare-delivery models — all aimed at making the patient king (or queen) — continues unabated.
Indeed, the personalization of medicine is flourishing today more than ever before. What new models are emerging to advance it, and how can you take advantage of the trend?
In the new world order of value-based reimbursements and paying providers for outcomes, treating the whole person, mind as well as body, has gained traction.
Following the patient-centric model, in which patients are active participants in their own care, the patient-centered medical home (PCMH) has emerged as a means for facilitating collaboration between patients, their doctors, and their families in order to provide better outcomes. PCMH systems include fewer patients per provider than a typical practice. They get lengthier visits, more detailed preventative recommendations, and better coordination among specialists. The model is appealing to physicians: according to one recent survey, one-third of physician respondents said they were already part of or moving toward becoming part of a PCMH model.
Also gaining interest is the concept of concierge medicine, or “retainer medicine,” in which patients pay a monthly or yearly “membership” fee to providers. In exchange, they become part of an exclusive group of patients who can expect executive-level service from their doctor: lengthy consultations, appointments whenever they need them, even house calls. Frustration over the inability to get face time with the doctor has driven patients’ willingness to pay for a concierge service. And the model seems to be catching on: A 2014 Merritt Hawkins survey of 20,000 physicians showed that 20 percent of respondents said they were either currently practicing a concierge model or planning on doing so in the future. And today there are approximately 6,000 concierge practitioners, up from just 4,400 in 2012.
Many of us have done it before: turned to a retail clinic at Target or Walmart, CVS or Walgreens, when we have a minor ailment but can’t get in to see our “regular” doctor. Many more will do so in the years to come as the proliferation continues of retail clinics boasting not just a variety of acute illness services and consultations under $100 but also preventive screenings, chronic illness management, infusion services, and more.
The convenience of same-day appointments or walk-in service sometimes trumps the desire to see the same provider, and the accelerating shift of payment burdens from insurance companies to patients may reduce patient willingness to wait lengthy periods before getting an appointment — all while an ongoing shortage of primary care providers continues to exacerbate the problem of appointment availability.
All signs point to a more “retailized” approach to care continuing to grow: current U.S. retail clinical sales are valued at over $1 billion; mega-pharmacy CVS alone projects opening 1,500 clinic outlets by 2017; and annual retail clinic visits were projected to reach 10.5 million in 2015.
“No insurance? No problem.” The idea of a cash-only practice model is not new: the first iterations sprung up in the early 1990s, and the concept stuck around largely due to provider fatigue from dealing with insurance red tape and a desire to have higher quality relationships with patients. The explosion in patient volume due to reforms under the Affordable Care Act has further shortened the amount of time that primary care doctors have to spend with patients. And though the number of physicians who don’t accept insurance today remains fairly small, it’s growing steadily: in 2013, 6 percent of doctors practiced on a cash-only basis, 2 percent more than the year prior.
And some patients seem intrigued by a model that can enable doctors to provide more in-depth appointments at predictable, flat costs.
The emergence of the modern healthcare consumer, triggered by widespread reforms to the roiling marketplace, has meant that striving for competitive, personalized approaches will remain critical for practices to stay competitive moving forward. This is especially true given that the value-over-volume model shows no signs of fading: according to Medical Economics, 40 percent of commercial in-network payments were tied to performance or “designed to cut waste.” Even hospitals that resisted letting go of fee-for-service contracts are acknowledging that value-based payment is here to stay. In the modern medical marketplace, models that emphasize convenience, accessibility, and the unique needs of the consumer will continue to succeed.
Want to learn how to make your practice more accessible to your patients and more flexible to their individual needs? Contact Everseat to discover tools to boost patient satisfaction and retention.