Tips for improving convenience without damaging the doctor-patient relationship

New healthcare delivery models may make patients’ lives more convenient, but providers must take care not to let ease of access disrupt the relationship between doctors and patients, warns a report in NEJM Catalyst.

The NEJM Catalyst Insights Council surveyed 498 healthcare executives, clinical leaders and clinicians to get their takes on the pros and cons of disruptive changes to care delivery, such as retail clinics and telemedicine. While 73 percent of respondents indicated those disruptions would likely make access to care more convenient for patients, 79 percent see further fragmentation of the doctor-patient relationship as an unintended consequence of major changes to care delivery models.

According to respondents, the biggest disruptors currently in the healthcare market include telehealth services, the proliferation of retail clinics, and services that provide automated decision-making support for patients. Because these changes differ greatly from traditional care provision, experts see them pressuring healthcare organizations to pay more attention to patient-centric elements of their care delivery. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but the report emphasizes that these changes require caution: “if the U.S. healthcare system starts favoring convenience, or transactional care, over relationship-based care, then patients will sour to traditional healthcare altogether and seek alternative, and potentially more expensive, less effective treatments,” writes Amy Compton-Phillips, M.D., executive vice president and chief clinical officer at Providence Health & Services.

Fortunately, Compton-Phillips sees prospects for balanced progress:

  • Traditional care providers should embrace the positive aspects of retail clinics, such as “great access, flexible timing, and easy navigation,” she writes.
  • Encouraging the free flow of information will also help keep care from becoming disconnected and fragmented. Compton-Phillips sees potential in this area for linking mobile apps to existing medical records to improve care coordination.
  • The use of technology such as telehealth to improve patient self-care offers a tremendous opportunity to improve population health by improving care coordination, according to Compton-Phillips.

- read the report