Philosophy, process, practice management: What you need for better patient care
Independent providers can provide the best patient care — here’s how.
Doctors, dentists, therapists, and other healthcare professionals who work in independent practices often have the opportunity and freedom to spend more time and build closer relationships with patients or clients.
They also have better outcomes: according to a study of family physicians published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, physician-owned practices often have better patient care outcomes compared to health systems and hospitals. But what is patient care, and how can independent practices improve it?
What is patient care?
Patient care involves the practitioner’s perspective on what care should be, the process by which they deliver that care, and the practice management system. It centers the professional relationship between practitioner and patient — based on a foundation of mutual trust and respect, clear and timely communication, and collaboration.
Healthcare is a human right, and quality patient care is intertwined with quality healthcare, as the authors of the Harvard School of Public Health Resource Guide argue. Patient care is an opportunity to affirm patients’ and practitioners’ dignity and autonomy, and patients’ rights to:
- Make decisions about their healthcare
- Practice informed consent
- Refuse medical treatment
- Receive confidentiality
“Healthcare is a human right, and quality patient care is intertwined with quality healthcare. ”
Patient care is at the core of any healthcare practice. This makes it crucial to any form of practice success. If you want to improve the well-being of your practice, improving the well-being of your patient care is a great place to start.
How to improve patient care
Improving patient care involves improving your philosophy, process, and practice management.
Evaluate your care philosophy
Trust, collaboration, and mutual respect should be evident in every part of patient care. This can start before a patient’s first appointment and continue to creating a treatment plan and documentation and follow up.
- At a patient’s first appointment, and without making assumptions, do you ask about their identity, past experiences with care, and past barriers to care (if any) to allow for an open conversation?
- Do all patients feel welcome, respected, and at ease in your practice and in interactions with staff and practitioners?
- Have your staff and practitioners received training on trans inclusion, including around names and pronouns, intake and exam room questions, and trans-specific considerations in care? If not, how can you be sure you’re offering the best possible care?
- Do your screening rates and treatment recommendations differ by race, ethnicity, gender, ability, body weight, or language? What additional steps recommended by the American Medical Association can you take to commit to equity in your practice?
- Does your practice have a plan to identify and address racial inequities for your patients? If yes, how do your markers of success compare to your goals? If no, how can you be certain that your practice isn’t part of the problem?
- Do you regularly send surveys to patients to learn about their experiences and help build deeper relationships?
Evaluate your care process and delivery
Having an intuitive, efficient, and comprehensible care delivery process is also crucial to patient care.
- How do you collect patient information and, for returning patients, ensure that it is up to date? Is your intake process accessible, automated, and easy to understand? Or do you notice inefficiencies that point to opportunities to streamline?
- When patients come into the office or prepare for a telehealth appointment, do you have a consistent process so they know what to expect each time?
- What portion of your day do you spend with patients, and what portion do you spend on charting, documentation, and front-office tasks?
- Are your care plans evidence-based, cost effective, and in consideration of patients’ insurance eligibility?
- Are your follow-up appointments timely? Do you adapt care plans according to patients’ lived experiences?
- How efficient are your clinical charting and patient documentation systems? If you use an EHR, does it integrate with your workflows for ordering labs and prescriptions and submitting insurance claims? If you don’t use an EHR, what are the advantages of your current solution, and in what ways is it holding you back?
Evaluate your practice management
Believe it or not, good practice management is part of quality patient care. Reflect on the following ways they might intersect for you:
- In what ways can patients get in touch with your practice for appointment scheduling, follow-up questions, feedback, and — if relevant — urgent or emergency care?
- Is it easy for patients to find information about your practice online, including reviews?
- Do you send automated appointment reminders?
- Do you offer integrated, HIPAA-compliant telehealth?
- Does your EHR work to maximize your insurance reimbursements?
- Are your bills timely, easy to understand, and easy to pay?
Track data to chart your progress — and your next steps
Enable analytics for your practice to get a clearer picture of both where you are and the opportunities to get to where you want to be. Plus, streamlined tracking with analytics can let you focus less on figuring out the numbers and more on delivering care.
Whether you’re exceeding your own expectations or identified some areas for growth, improving patient care is an ongoing process for any healthcare practice.