What healthcare IT companies must provide to support the future of primary care

The events of 2020, and the normalization of remote and COVID-safe care, have in some ways created innovations that sped up the adoption of telehealth and simplified care delivery.

In many cases, clinicians still saw patients in person, and, naturally, this involved challenges. Primary care has especially been affected, and issues stemming back to before the pandemic are being exacerbated.

Average wait times to see a primary care physician continue trending upward, as only healthy patients can be seen in the physical office, and those who are sick or have symptoms must go to urgent care or be seen at curbside. Separate from COVID-19 is patients’ growing expectations for on-demand care, reflecting their experiences of instant service and advice in other sectors of their lives.

Primary care physicians face increasing complications in meeting patient needs. As always, they have to cope with their own feelings of burnout, and often, this burnout is increased by disparate workflows and non-centralized patient information. More urgently when dealing with COVID-19, it’s essential that physicians can easily risk score patients, alerting and prioritizing conditions in the EHR. They also must be able to determine which cases to prioritize for in-person visits, and which they could just as effectively handle remotely to help manage their daily workloads and ensure full focus on patients. Managing ongoing treatments and prescriptions—as well as tracking health trends in the local populations—is also critical to successful primary care delivery, even outside of pandemic circumstances.

It is these challenges and key functions that healthcare IT vendors must work to address with their primary care clients. We must ensure solutions are truly enabling practices to see more patients and providing efficient workflows while supporting the best quality of care. Beyond fundamental interoperability functions, the offers of optimal scheduling, integrated telehealth tools for easy virtual visits and systems that promote shorter wait times are increasingly critical.

As an example of optional scheduling, consider the following: A patient with a chronic condition like hypertension calls about an acute concern like pink eye, but hasn’t actually seen a doctor about the chronic condition in two years. The EHR should identify all these characteristics for the physician and administrators. This facilitates appropriate schedule time to adequately address both issues and prioritize the patient appropriately. Continued use of optimal scheduling promotes maximized value-based care and effective, long-term health for the patient.

Primary care providers will especially need healthcare IT solutions that support things like practice optimization and virtual access as the pandemic continues to pose new challenges and at-risk patients are less likely to enter the physician’s office. Fully integrated EHR, practice management and consumer engagement technologies, including those that alert patients for appointments, are also extremely valuable in prioritizing and scheduling patients for vaccines.

Overall, the key lies in facilitating interactions between patients and providers, utilizing everyday devices both parties feel comfortable using. Doing so helps patients actively engage with providers as needed, eases clinician burden and optimizes practice operations, most urgently in a time of crisis. Healthcare IT vendors must help primary care physicians close care gaps and continue treating all patient segments to ensure their health and success in value-based care models.

Learn more about how your organization can prepare for these changing demands and pave a path toward continued success.

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