4 ways for traditional primary care providers to survive

"Just as the health food aisle once had 100 items and now has 1,000, primary care is now being segmented down to more and more options," Chris Stenzel, senior vice president for business development and innovation at Kaiser Permanente, told the authors of a new report about the future of primary care.

Traditional practices can learn a lot from the new players shaking up the marketplace--convenient care, house calls, at-your-service care, digital health and nurse-led care--according to the report, Primary in the New Health Economy: Time for a makeover, conducted by PwC's Health Research Institute.

Practices that don't embrace some type of change are already finding themselves bypassed by consumers looking for convenience, a more personal touch or both, noted the report. PwC's research revealed that 82 percent of consumers would be open to non-traditional ways of getting medical care.

To become part of the future of healthcare rather than left in the past, the PwC report recommended primary care practices embrace the following strategies:

  • Know your strengths--and your patients. Don't try to meet everyone's needs. Instead, hone in on what's special about your consumer market. Johns Hopkins HealthCare, for example, uses customer relationship management software to better understand its patients' characteristics and improve population health.
  • Explore new roles. While some organizations, such as Alii Healthcare, have found that expanding into virtual care has helped stave off physician burnout, others have grown by bringing newer roles, such as behavioral health specialists and pharmacists, into the primary care fold as part of patient-centered medical homes and accountable care organizations.
  • Partner thoughtfully. "Finding partnerships with community organizations such as schools, churches and community centers will also be important for the primary care strategies of traditional health systems and newcomers alike," noted the report. Retailers have been partnering with telehealth companies for some time, and more recently with family medicine organizations.
  • Look at the big picture. It isn't necessarily constructive to blame new health players for creating segmentation in primary care, according to the report. To keep market segmentation from translating to care fragmentation, practices must look at how they should operate within the healthcare ecosystem. "To achieve desired outcomes and manage costs, healthcare organizations cannot be just a piece of the care puzzle; they must solve this puzzle for the patient," wrote the authors.

To learn more:
- see the report