PERSPECTIVE

Making Patient-Centered Care a Reality

Putting patient experience first can pay dividends for clinical operations, financial success, and provider morale.

Published January 06, 2023

Provider holds a patient’s hand with patient-centered care.

4 Key Insights for Health Systems

At the Becker's 10th Annual CEO + CFO Roundtable in November 2022, Theo Koury, MD, President of Vituity, and Imamu Tomlinson, MD, CEO of Vituity and President of the Vituity Cares Foundation, met with other healthcare leaders to discuss patient-centric care delivery. Here are their takeaways:

1. Looking ahead to 2023, healthcare leaders are worried about patient confidence, workforce shortages, and hospital closures.

How do we regain patients' confidence as we continue to lose providers who have been the bedrock for building trusted relationships?" Koury asks. “Clinicians are the faces of our hospitals and represent our closest connections to patients. It’s deeply concerning that over 330,000 providers left the workforce in 2021, and many more are positioned to retire in the next few years.”

Meanwhile, in rural communities, hospital closures continue at a rapid pace, overwhelming the hospitals that remain. Between 2010 and 2021, 136 rural hospitals closed, and this number is expected to grow as margins shrink and pandemic aid dries up. “I hate to envision a world where rural hospitals disappear, and patients have to drive two hours to reach acute care,” says Tomlinson, who practices emergency medicine in California’s largely rural Central Valley. “My experience tells me we simply can’t allow that to happen.”

2. Some see technology as a promising solution, but others are more cautious.

Opportunities exist, for example, to leverage technology for virtual patient navigation after an individual leaves the ED or inpatient setting. "We actually started our virtual navigation program at the request of front-line providers, who saw patients struggling to navigate the system,” Koury says. “And it’s been a real boon for our complex patients.” In fact, 100% of patients who participated in Vituity’s complex care navigation pilot expressed satisfaction with the program.

Koury cautions health systems to remain mindful of the “digital divide.” Without careful planning and implementation, virtual solutions can worsen access for the most vulnerable. "We know that about a quarter of Medicare beneficiaries don’t have digital access at home,” Tomlinson says. “This is especially true for older patients, those with lower socioeconomic status, and people of color. It’s important also to consider the different populations we serve and how they prefer to access care.”

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We must engage with our communities as we redesign our care delivery systems to ensure we meet their real-life needs.

Imamu Tomlinson bio image

Imamu Tomlinson, MD, MBA

 

CEO of Vituity and President of Vituity Cares

3. Many hospitals and health systems are exploring creative new ways to reach patients.

Tomlinson described how Vituity has started a mobile clinic program in conjunction with California’s San Joaquin County. Specially equipped medical RVs make the rounds between community centers across the region. Advanced providers and nurses deliver in-person care with additional telehealth support from the San Joaquin General Hospital Emergency Department.

Vituity has also launched several street medicine programs at its practice sites and through its foundation. “Unhoused patients have very limited access to medical care and some of the worst health outcomes,” Tomlinson says. “Street medicine helps us develop relationships with these patients and build trust. Often, we can help to reduce emergency room visits. And when patients do have emergencies, they’re more likely to come in if they’ve met at least one of our ER providers.”

4. Striking a balance between patient-centric and individualized care isn't always easy.

Millions of Americans want care delivered in their own way, so a single solution won't work. "It’s imperative that healthcare leaders and clinicians develop the cultural competence to understand patients’ diverse backgrounds, experiences, and care preferences,” Tomlinson says. “We must engage with our communities as we redesign our care delivery systems to ensure we meet their real-life needs.”

There's little doubt that the future of healthcare will focus on the patient. "There are many innovations that put the patient in the center so we can design care around them," Dr. Koury said. "I see energy and ideas; we just need to put them into action.”

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