Today's patients may be busy, convenience-driven and tech-savvy, but they often face financial and logistical constraints too. To better meet the needs of patients, some practices are evaluating 'alternative visit models' that effectively mobilize patient care and bring it beyond practice walls to patients in the community. If you want to avoid the risk of losing (more) visits to 'convenient care', you need to get on this trend rather quickly as innovators are offering a variety of creative ways to meet the needs of patients better than traditional practices can.
How Prevalent Are Alternative Visits Becoming?
According to the American Academy of Home Care Medicine, Medicare Part B paid for 2,599,346 house calls in 2015. In fact, Medicare is actively researching the benefits of providing patient care in the home via their Independence at Home Demonstration, in which their stated goals are to "test the effectiveness of delivering comprehensive primary care services at home and if doing so improves care for Medicare beneficiaries with multiple chronic conditions."
In a two-year study across 15 enrolled practices, a savings of $7,821,374 has been demonstrated. Converted to per-patient cost savings, that's an average of $746 per beneficiary, so you can expect to continue to see Medicare invest there.
However, it is not just Medicare taking an interest and it is not just a service for the chronically ill and aged. There are a number of innovators ready to meet 'house call' demand and fill the void left by more traditional practices. Companies are actively marketing their visiting doctor services in specific regions as a convenient and comprehensive alternative to the typical medical practice visit. These organizations accept private insurance and Medicare plans, and are directly competing with practices and urgent-care facilities alike for your patients.
While some are tackling convenient house calls, others are developing mobile clinics nationwide. These practices on wheels are designed to meet the needs of patients with transportation and work scheduling issues. Mobile clinics are fully equipped to offer radiology, preventive health physicals, immunizations, and employee check-up clinics. Several of these models are designed toward providing free or low-cost care to underserved populations, while others, such as the Medicine on the Move Mobile Medical Center, accepts all kinds of healthcare insurance plans and is a convenient-care model.
What About Virtual Care and Telehealth?
Telehealth, telemedicine, e-Health, m-Health — there are many names for the rapidly emerging technology platforms that enable the 'virtual' visit.
The ability to visit with the doctor by video is nearly every bit as convenient as having providers conduct house calls. The use of telehealth is varied and broad, and tackles such areas as providing care access for rural health areas, replacing urgent care or on-call visits after (and sometimes during) open office hours, and for concerns that require frequent check-ins, such as managing diabetes and behavioral health. According to a Harris Poll, 65 percent of consumers are interested in seeing their primary-care provider (PCP) over video, and 20 percent of consumers said they were willing to switch to a PCP that offered video visits. That means that your ability to offer patients access to alternative ways to access care will impact your business and budget over time.