We continue our two part blog series, 'Why Healthcare is NOT Broken and Increased Patient Engagement Changes Everything,' from Chief Marketing Officer, Renae Rossow. If you missed the first blog in this series, read it here.
2017 – Enter MACRA
MACRA and the Quality Payment Program disrupted our lives a little more than a year ago with a lot of moaning and complaining from us all – myself included. I got enraged right alongside the healthcare providers we regularly work with because the last thing in the world we need is to make life even more difficult than it already is for physicians who are suffering from intense burnout that is increasing at an alarming rate.
But then I had to actually read the legislation. As a company, we chose to learn as much as we could so that, in turn, we could teach it to the providers we work with and somehow ease the burden of this enormous piece of legislation. It didn’t wash over me immediately. I didn’t have an epiphany where I was reading a certain line that triggered a flash of light and all was right with the world. I mean, have you ever read that many pages of legislation? It was a tough cookie to get through the first time and required countless times of checking and rechecking before I even began to wrap my head around parts of it.
So, unlike an ‘aha’ moment, rather, it settled on me over time. It was like a pair of new shoes that were uncomfortable at first but after wearing them for a while they became the most comfortable, beloved pair of shoes you own - we all have that pair. Although it’s taken more than a year for me to be able to put into words how much GOOD I think will come from the Quality Payment Program, here’s just a few pieces of the legislation that I think are already contributing to healing the healthcare industry:
1. The focus on quality of care versus quantity of care reduces an enormous amount of wasteful healthcare spend. If we can stop ranting, look in the mirror, and be incredibly honest with ourselves we can admit, as a whole, that there were probably some instances in the history of our career where a test was unnecessary, lab work could have waited until the yearly review, or a patient could have potentially got over the sniffles without the antibiotic being prescribed. By focusing on only doing what is good for the patient we save money. And in the long run, we will make more money. Maybe not at first, but to be rewarded for providing better care instead of more care can have incredible advantages.
2. The focus on patient engagement will result in better health outcomes. Like a trendy piece of clothing, patient engagement is everywhere. But I’m willing to lay money on the fact that it will not go out of style. Not ever. A movement towards increased patient engagement has been needed since the beginning of time and, quite frankly, I’m excited by it. Getting a patient to actually log into a patient portal and view a graph of how their blood pressure has been getting better (or worse) over time empowers them to be more involved. Making it easier for them to set an appointment, to receive messages from their doctor, to take a look at their lab results and truly understand what’s going on will allow them the opportunity to truly invest and take ownership in their personal care. Of course, not every patient will do this. Not every person will take advantage of what is available to them. But some will. And even if it is only 5% of the billions of patients seen every year, just imagine it. Imagine the improvement we will see. Imagine the snowball effect it could have as mom and dad get more involved, then their children and their children and their children. Increased patient engagement can only result in a positive outcome for all.
3. The focus on clinical improvement activities provides greater opportunity for everyone. An incredibly high percentage of our patients are not coming in for their follow-up visits. Whether they cannot afford the time off work, travel is an obstacle, or it’s simply an inconvenience, it’s a fact that more patients than not, start feeling better and simply avoid the follow-up visit altogether. Additionally, patients will wave off symptoms and warning signs because it’s too inconvenient to take a few minutes out of their day to see the doctor. Programs that expand access to care are incredibly effective and will have an overwhelming impact on various types of poor health behavior. For instance, if a provider allows for an e-visit or a telehealth visit, the patient is more than two times likely to attend follow-up visits. Even more surprising is that almost 80% of parents with small children stated that they would be willing to switch doctors if it meant they could have telehealth instead of packing up the children for a doctor visit. Add in programs like Chronic Care Management services you’re literally saving lives by giving at-risk patients an extra checkup during the month to ensure they are following their care program and have no new symptoms. There are many different activities to choose from but there’s no doubt programs such as telehealth and chronic care management can do nothing but improve patient satisfaction while improving health outcomes. Here’s the thing – you’re not only going to get paid for the services, you’ll score higher on the total composite score for the quality payment program. How could this be a bad thing?
In summary, only giving a patient the care they actually need, getting them more involved via an easy-to-use patient portal, and expanding their access to your practice are all requirements of MACRA and the Quality Payment Program. What I’m saying is, we can save money, we can provide the patients with an opportunity to be more involved and we can make more money by providing the services they actually need, such as telehealth and chronic care management services.
So is the healthcare system truly broken? No. It’s simply still healing. Without a doubt, that will take time.
However, what is broken is our morale. What’s broken is the fact that we continue to focus on everything that’s been wrong for so many years. What’s broken is that we’ve tried and tried again but failed. And now we don’t want to try anymore.
In my humble opinion, if we could muster the strength to get up one more time, dust ourselves off, and really focus on what we’re here for – the patient – then maybe we can leave the past behind and put in place some of these amazing opportunities we have before us. We need to come together for the purpose of putting in place the pieces that will make it better. We need to use the tools we’ve been given (the Quality Payment Program) and begin to stitch up the wound.
Let’s forget business for just a moment and embrace the fact that, though there are some concerns, there are a lot of great things about MACRA that we can wrap our heads around and bring to fruition in our own practices for the bettering of the patients that we treat. If we focus on that and that alone, we can survive the new regulations by understanding their value and putting the programs that make sense into place.
We can be part of finally turning the Titanic around. We can once again be effective in an industry that, when compared to the world, has been failing miserably.
BUT… (there’s always a but) …
We have a treatment plan started. It’s time that we focus on being compliant so that our healthcare industry heals and once again becomes about the patient – not the business.
What do you think? Are you convinced healthcare is not broken? Share your thoughts on the future of healthcare by connecting with us via Twitter or Facebook.