- The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in unprecedented physician turnover rates and costly disruptions to patient care.
- Healthcare interruptions due to physician turnover translate to higher payer costs due to an increased risk of emergencies, readmissions, and specialized care requirements.
- With cloud-based communications, payers can help shorten the care continuity gap when physicians leave their practice.
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Although primary care physician turnover was a serious problem before the pandemic, COVID-related stress and more workloads have significantly exacerbated the issue. According to a Morning Consult report, nearly 20% of U.S. healthcare professionals have quit, while 31% of those remaining have considered leaving their practice since the pandemic began.
Now, as COVID-19 gradually moves from pandemic to endemic status, healthcare executives agree that staffing is the sector’s most significant challenge for 2022 and beyond. The American Hospital Association estimates that the U.S. will have a shortfall of 124,000 physicians by 2033 and must employ at least 200,000 new nurses annually over the next ten years to meet rising demand and worker turnover.
Besides forcing current workers to work extra hours, high turnover has a cascading effect on payer costs. According to a recently published Mayo Clinic study, physician turnover in the U.S. results in around $959 million in additional healthcare expenditures for payers annually. The study attributes these extra costs to the loss of care continuity when healthcare professionals leave the workforce.
Fortunately, modern technology presents compelling solutions that payers can use to help maintain continuity of care when the physician-patient relationship is severed. This article explores how cloud-based communications can improve care continuity and keep payer costs at bay.
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How do physician turnover and continuity of care impact payer costs?
An uninterrupted relationship between physicians and their patients typically results in better healthcare outcomes. Both parties benefit from improved diagnostic accuracy and care coordination because of the trust and understanding they have already developed with each other.
Given the significance of continuous care, any disruption to the physician-patient relationship can be costly. When physicians quit, patients must find a new provider. During this transition, they are at significant risk of experiencing a deterioration in their health and are more likely to visit the emergency room or be readmitted to a hospital.
Moreover, the panic that ensues after patients lose their physicians causes many to seek expensive specialists thinking specialists are the only ones that match the level of care they previously received. Whether the result is ER visits, readmissions, or specialized care utilization, care disruption due to physician turnover directly impacts payer costs.
Using cloud-based payer communications to bolster continuity of care
In the past, when patients lost their physicians, payers had virtually no way of influencing the situation and controlling the impending increase in costs. Today, thanks to advanced cloud-based communication tools, they can help shorten the continuity gap.
As a payer, here are five ways you can utilize cloud-based communications to address the costly impact of rising physician turnover.
1. Linking members to suitable providers
When a patient’s physician leaves the practice, finding information on potentially suitable providers and contacts can be challenging. As a payment facilitator, your organization holds vast knowledge about current and historical patient and healthcare provider information. With the right links to your members, you can point them in the right direction and help minimize the impact of care disruption.
A comprehensive cloud-based communications platform enables you to reach patients in various channels and keep up with their care. So, when their physician quits, you will be right there to quickly suggest a provider and offer all the helpful information required. Because of your existing relationship with the patient, they will be more inclined to trust you and quickly settle on your recommended physician.
2. Giving new physicians access to patient data
A primary contributor to continuity of care is a physician’s understanding of a patient’s unique health history. Therefore, your role as a care continuity facilitator does not stop at connecting a member to their new physician. You must also ensure the physician is well equipped to take over treatment by linking them to all relevant information with the patient’s approval.
A cloud-based communication platform can act as a centralized repository that facilitates real-time access to patient data. Once authorized, the physician instantly acquires a comprehensive view of the patient’s health information, including current and previous conditions, medications, allergies, and lab results. Therefore, rather than gathering data afresh, they can continue from where the last care provider left, ensuring continuity.
3. Proactively engage patients and providers post-turnover
The continuity of care depends not only on the physician’s understanding of the patient’s health information but also on how well they engage with the patient. After all, a big part of providing quality care is building trust and rapport with patients.
A cloud-based communications platform gives you uninterrupted access to patients and their providers through any channel they prefer. You can send timely reminders and notifications to both parties about upcoming appointments, tests, or changes in their health plan, keeping them interacting until the relationship is firm enough to stand on its own.
4. Monitor health outcomes
Care continuity is not only essential for reducing short-term costs but also for ensuring long-term efficacy. By actively monitoring health outcomes, you can identify potential deterioration in a patient’s health status and respond proactively.
A cloud-based communications platform can connect you directly to your members and their ongoing treatment data, enabling you to monitor health outcomes and flag any potential issues. For example, with the patient’s approval, data regarding blood pressure readings can be periodically uploaded to the cloud for real-time access by any authorized party. With this access, you can detect unusual variations early and intervene to prevent further deterioration and costly emergencies.
5. Provide real-time patient education
A cloud-based communications platform gives you a unique opportunity to provide patients with real-time education about their condition, medications, and other aspects of their care. With engaging multimedia content and two-way interactivity, you can keep your members well educated on managing their health successfully as they transition to a new physician.
For example, suppose a member recently discharged after a heart attack loses their physician. In such a case, they are likely to be overwhelmed by the new medications and lifestyle changes, and without a physician, they may end up back in the emergency room.
With a robust cloud-based communications platform, you can connect with the patient directly and offer regular educational content about managing their condition, improving their chances of recovery. Well-educated members will also be better equipped to collaborate with the new physician for a fast and smooth transition.
Support patient care continuity with RingCentral’s cloud-based communication tools
Ensuring care continuity for patients during physician turnover is a complex task that requires coordination between payers, providers, and patients. Thankfully, the right cloud-based communications platform can be a powerful ally in your efforts to reduce the impact of disrupted care.
RingCentral’s cloud communications solutions for payers offer the integrated, multi-channel approach you need to connect to members and providers and actively contribute to care continuity. With RingCentral, you can interact with patients and physicians on their preferred channels, provide real-time access to relevant data, and track outcomes to detect and address potential deteriorations.
Check out RingCentral’s payer solutions page to learn more about how advanced communication tools can help you deliver consistent, reliable, and cost-effective patient experiences.
Originally published Apr 05, 2022