Seven Ways Your Primary Care Provider Can Help Reduce ER Visits
By Joe Nester
Changing how people think and interact with their primary care provider is an essential first step in guiding them toward excellent health, especially as they age. Most people are familiar with a reactive system of medicine that was primarily utilized when a person was sick or dealing with an emergency. A newer model of care is that some primary care practices use a more patient-centered approach where the incentive for the provider is based on achieving the best possible patient outcomes for their patient. When better outcomes are the goal, providers can treat the whole patient, and preventative medicine becomes the common denominator for your care and keeping you from an ER visit. When choosing a primary care provider, here are seven things you must look for that can keep you living your best life.
- Medication Managementis a leading cause of Emergency Room (ER) visits and hospitalizations among our senior population. Taking prescription drugs without adequate attention to dosing requirements or stopping a medication without consulting with a provider can easily exacerbate an existing medical condition. Because people are not always taking their medicines as prescribed, it costs over $500 billion annually in the US. Your provider should understand these struggles and provide in-house pharmacists who can consult you and your providers to ensure you follow proper medication management.
- Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM)is a tool your primary care provider should use with their high-risk patient. This tool gives providers a considerable advantage in caring for their patients by providing a daily real-time window into their vitals. RPM monitors patients in their homes and automatically transmits the data to a central location where medical professionals analyze it. The data allows providers to adjust care plans and address issues before they can escalate into something serious. RPM has been invaluable for keeping patients out of the emergency room and reducing hospitalization.
- Controlling diabetesis often a complex matter involving multiple medical specialties. Customization of care focusing on the patient’s needs while seeking to alleviate many disease management burdens can be accomplished within a team environment. If you are like many other Americans with diabetes, ensure your provider has a diabetic team that includes dietitians, pharmacists, social workers, cardiac specialists, cognitive behavior therapists, and chronic care management representatives. These specialists working together bring extensive expertise in controlling diabetes by understanding all of the variables and related symptoms of the disease.
- Provider/patient relationshipsare almost always improved when patients receive regular visits from their primary care provider. Patients who see their relationship with their provider as more of a partnership in which they can participate have greater trust in what the provider tells them and feel more empowered to become involved in managing their care. With the added encouragement a patient receives through a medical partnership, they are more receptive to suggestions that can directly impact their health. That same patient may also be open to making some challenging lifestyle changes often required to see a lasting improvement in their condition.
- Chronic Care Management (CCM)coordinates care outside traditional medical visits for patients suffering from two or more chronic conditions, most Americans over 30. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recognizes CCM as a critical component of primary care, contributing to a patient’s better overall health. Medicare believes the proactive approach of CCM will keep patients healthier while avoiding future costlier medical services and hospitalizations. A CCM program within a practice is designed to establish a consistent patient-provider relationship while offering customized patient-centric healthcare. Through a CCM program, practices coordinate care to improve patients’ health and quality of life.
- Scheduling the appointment and starting treatment soonercan be a critical step for the patient, depending on the type of illness they are experiencing. The national average lead time for an appointment in a traditional doctor’s office today is approximately three weeks, and in rural and underserved populations, it can be much longer. Does your primary care practice offer longer hours? Does your provider offer appointments six or even seven days a week? When patients have better appointment access, this can reduce a new appointment window to only a few days. A faster appointment time can help in avoiding a lot of health issues.
- Bringing medical services to your homethrough in-home visits or telehealth allows practitioners greater flexibility in care customization for their patients. In-home medical visits today can handle anything from lab work, immunizations, x-rays, automated medication dispensing, specialist referrals, advanced care planning, and daily remote vitals monitoring. These components allow medical organizations to provide routine preventative medicines and the ongoing management of more complex chronic conditions in the patient-centric home environment.
Choosing the right primary care provider can save you medical costs and unnecessary trips to the emergency room.