Patients need communication, cost info in tough economy

Despite a recent uptick in consumers' confidence in their ability to access and pay for healthcare, concerns loom as to whether patients are getting the right outpatient care at the right time. And it isn't only healthy patients with high deductibles that are putting off care; it's also a large proportion of high-risk individuals, such as those who suffer from chronic conditions, have recently been hospitalized, or both.

According to a recent study from the Center for Studying Health System Change, for instance, about one-third of adults who have been hospitalized don't see a physician, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant within 30 days after discharge, reports Family Practice News.

While most of the patients who skipped the post-discharge visit were relatively healthy, researchers found that 46 percent of patients who did not follow up with a doctor had at least one chronic condition, and 36 percent were in fair or poor physical health. And although almost all (90 percent) of patients reported at their first admission that they had a usual source of care, 20 percent said it was difficult to contact their doctor by phone about a health problem, with even more reporting difficulties getting in touch with physicians after hours.

A recent article from American Medical News concurs that cost fears are keeping many "sicker adults" from visiting doctors' offices. To help combat this trend, experts said that medical practices may have to more aggressively email, call, and otherwise reach out to patients to remind them when it's time to come in for tests and exams.

Practices can use these opportunities not only to educate patients about the importance of receiving certain health services but also about health reforms that make some preventive services free to patients with certain health insurance plans. Furthermore, physicians and practices can do more to help patients prioritize care in a cost-conscious way, even if specific price information is not available, by discussing the possibilities of generic medications and lower-cost interventions, amnews reports.

To learn more:
- see the article from Family Practice News
- read the article from American Medical News
- check out the press release from Thompson Reuters