8 Ways to Put the Patient in the Center of Your Practice

By Melissa Mills  |  October 30, 2018

Studies show that patient-centered care increases overall health while decreasing costs. Today, not only do you want the patient at the center of their care, but you also want to include their family or caregivers.

Dr. Beth Oller, a family practice physician and owner at Post Rock Family Medicine in Stockton, Kansas knows a thing or two about patient-centered care. She has practiced medicine alongside her husband and several other practitioners in a rural independent practice for seven years.

During this time, they have achieved designation as a Patient-Centered Medical Home, which further demonstrates her ability to create care-partnerships with her patients. She has been fortunate to witness growth in herself and her business throughout the years.

She reminisced that in Medical School she was taught that doctors are the center of the practice and team. Then she entered the real world and realized that provider-centric care was counter-intuitive to patient care, meeting metrics and overall success. This is one of the many reasons her practice proudly provides patient-centered care.

What Is Patient-Centered Care?

Patient and family-centered care encourages collaboration and shared decision-making between patients, their families, and their providers. This collaborative relationship allows physicians to create a comprehensive health plan that keeps the patients where Dr. Oller believes they deserve to be - at the center of the healthcare team.

Here are eight ways her practice implements patient-centered care.

Meet the Patient Where They Are

Dr. Oller's philosophy of meeting her patients where they are spans from physical location to lifestyle, ethics and overall mental state.

She makes home visits for hospice patients, visits skilled nursing facilities to limit ambulance rides for her nursing home clients and has even shared stories and tips about parenting at the local ballfield. To her, this is all part of meeting her patients where they are when they need her. It is not always convenient, but it is the best way to serve her patients and the community she lives in.

It's important to remember that community and connection can easily happen inside the walls of your practice. As a physician, being present during your visits is as simple as connecting with your patients to understand the facets of life that impact their healthcare decisions. Take time to communicate with them and their caregivers. This will help to firmly establish them at the center of their care.

Review Your Analytics

Every other week Dr. Oller and her medical practice team sit down together to check analytics. They look at care needs like mammograms, vaccinations and lab values for upcoming appointments. She uses this information to drive positive patient outcomes.

According to Becker's Hospital Review, this is an essential part of a strategic design to deliver patient-centered care. Using facts to drive care in an empathetic way, can create a patient-centric environment that also meets the metrics you need to be profitable.

Discuss Finances

Patients have many reasons for declining or postponing care. Financial issues and budgets can drive patient care decisions. Dr. Oller advises tackling those difficult conversations with patients about finances head on and estimating patient responsibility. Especially if the patient's decisions go against best practices.

"Finances might be too tight this month. Or, a patient may choose to wait a few years for an expensive test, like a colonoscopy so that they will be eligible for Medicare," stated Dr. Oller. These are real conversations she has with patients that allow her to allow them to take the lead in their healthcare decisions.

To learn more about improving patient collections at your practice, check out this free guide:

Kareo Patient Collections

Offer Safety

Patients feel vulnerable during care - even well visits. In order to achieve the best level of care, they need to be honest with you about home life, finances, sexual practices or other personal topics. This may lead them to worry that you or others in your practice will carry biases against their decisions.

"Provide understanding and compassion in all you do," states Dr. Oller. "This makes your patient feel heard and empowers them to make the best care decisions for themselves and their family. This is another way to serve your community as well. The more compassion you offer to your patients, the more likely they are to tell others you are a safe practice."

Be Accessible

A 2018 article published in the Journal of the Association of American Medical Colleges, discusses how the current United States healthcare model focuses on restoring health after it's been lost. This can be especially true for vulnerable populations, such as those who are uninsured, underinsured or have a lower-income. You can bridge this care gap in your independent practice by increasing accessibility.

Dr. Oller discussed how having a sliding-fee scale, payment plans and other mechanisms of payment can increase access to care for some patients. She even discusses care accessibility with family members who go with their children or other loved ones to visits.

"What better way to coach someone toward healthcare services than to discuss it when they are not feeling vulnerable themselves. A mom attending a visit with their child who receives state-issued health insurance probably has not had preventive care. If I can talk with her about ways to increase her ability to attend a visit, I am empowering and coaching her to be her own healthcare advocate," she explained.

Create a Patient-Centered Culture with Your Staff

Being a boss isn't always easy. Dr. Oller remembered, "In the beginning, we weren't good bosses. It took us time to learn how to create the environment we wanted for our practice. But with time and experience, we found that we could foster excellent patient care through relationships with our staff."

Dr. Oller suggests hiring staff that you trust and then give them the professional courtesy of autonomy.

“You will have bad days and they will too,” she relates.  “However, you can make success attainable by fostering a team environment where everyone from the nursing staff to the front desk knows their value and the role they play in the delivery of patient-centered care.”

Coordinate Care

Most patients receive care in a few different settings to achieve a holistic health plan. This means you need someone in your office who understands community resources, specialties and insurance. Dr. Oller and her colleagues employ Care Managers to offer patients the next level of information after office visits. These skilled professionals help to bridge care gaps for patients while keeping them at the center of their healthcare decisions.

In today's managed care environment, it can be challenging to provide care that is meaningful to patients while still goal oriented. Use these practical tips to create an environment where patient-centered and outcome driven care live in harmony.

Utilize Technology

Physicians need information to practice medicine and nothing provides it quite like an electronic health record (EHR). When you need to know the results of a biopsy, scan or lab work, you have that information at your fingertips. This gives you the ability to move the patient onto the next step in the care plan without ever opening a chart to dig through previous care.

Find an EHR that fits the needs of your practice. Consider things like interoperability, messaging and point-and-click documentation as a way to keep workflow processes and patient care moving.

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To learn more about how Kareo's integrated clinical and practice management solution can help you improve on patient-centered care and your private practice: 

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