What to know and how to avoid Patient Leakage?
Primary care and secondary care physicians are seeing a shift in their patient base. With the emergence of urgent care centers and access to virtual on-demand care, some patients are leaving traditional primary care visits in favor of these other – often more convenient – options. This is an important trend in a new era of patient leakage, and a trend that is beginning to change the physician-patient relationship (and not for the better).
- There are approximately 9,000 urgent care clinics in the U.S.
- The number of urgent care centers is expected to grow to 15,000 by 2019
- How to Reduce
Urgent care centers appeal to patients who need care when their primary care physician’s office is closed or they cannot get an immediate appointment. In some circumstances, they can also be less expensive and deliver care faster, but this is old news.
- 85% of urgent care centers are open 7 days a week, with 95% closing after 7 pm
- 66% of urgent care centers have wait times of less than 20 minutes
- Only 29% of primary care practices offer after-hours coverage
In a recent JAMA study, 74% of families surveyed first considered going to their pediatrician but chose a retail clinic because:
- It had more convenient hours (37%)
- No appointment was available (25%)
- They did not want to bother the pediatrician after hours (15%)
- They thought the problem was not serious enough (13%)
A new trend for many employers is to offer on-demand video-based telemedicine options for employees as a way to provide easier access to care and potentially lower benefits costs. However, these on-demand services are yet another delivery channel pulling patients away from their primary care physician.
- 20% of U.S. employers offer telemedicine services to employees today but nearly 40% said they plan to offer access in the next year and 33% in the next 3 years.
- Some estimate that the effective use of telemedicine services could eliminate 15% of physician office visits.
The negative effects
While the convenience of urgent care centers and on-demand telemedicine is attractive, there are unintended clinical consequences that cannot be ignored – and more must be done to ensure patients are not put at risk.
- Non-coordinated, fragmented care can result in unnecessary testing, conflicting treatments, and a weakened physician-patient relationship
- Without access to medical records and history, urgent care centers and on-demand telemedicine providers risk misdiagnosis and dangerous medication interactions.
“If care isn’t coordinated in a way that improves outcomes, patient satisfaction, decreases costs and even provides provider satisfaction, everybody suffers.”Reid Blackwelder, MD,
President of the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP)
Financial Impact of Patient Leakage
The overall economics of a practice changes dramatically when the easy, less complex and less time-consuming cases are lost to urgent care and on-demand telemedicine providers. Practices cannot survive
Closed-Loop Referral Application – GetReferd
With convenient access and improved continuity of care, most patients believe that if there is an electronic system that will provide them access to specialists, in a timely manner, they would be happy to use this service.
According to a recent survey from Towers Watson:
- 74% of consumers would use electronic services given the opportunity to enhance their experience of healthcare
- 76% of patients prioritize access to care over anything else
- 70% of patients are comfortable communicating with their healthcare providers via text or email before seeing them in person