Don't Let Patients Fall Through the Cracks
Pre-Visit Planning Activities Make Practices and Patients More Proactive
- “Lose weight.”
- “Reduce your salt intake.”
- “Take your medications.”
- “Test your cholesterol levels.”
In a perfect world, patients would follow their doctors’ orders. The world, of course, is not perfect, and sometimes patients struggle to adhere to prescribed treatment plans. What’s a provider to do?
Physicians may not have the power to monitor their patients’ every move, but there are a few things practices can do to help patients help themselves.
Consider medications, for example. Busy patients may delay filling new prescriptions because they don’t have time to wait for their orders to be filled at the pharmacy. Practices can help patients improve their medication adherence by forwarding prescriptions electronically so that orders are ready and waiting by the time the patient walks in the pharmacy’s door.
What can practices do to ensure their patients follow doctors’ orders and complete recommended lab testing? One option is to implement pre-visit lab planning workflows that include pre-visit lab testing.
Consider a traditional workflow for lab testing. A patient comes in the office for a visit, the doctor determines what tests are required, and the patient is handed a lab order and told to have the tests done before the next visit – which may be months away.
While some patients may take care of their lab tests immediately, others will postpone testing for a variety of reasons: the lab slip is misplaced; they forgot to schedule the testing; they don’t see the necessity for the testing; or, testing is inconvenient, particularly when fasting is involved.
When patients fail to complete lab testing, providers may not notice the absence of test results until the patient’s next visit or until the patient needs a prescription refilled. If the patient has a chronic condition, the patient’s health may be compromised because the provider lacks current test result data, such as H1C levels for diabetic patients.
Practices may find better test adherence, as well as increased patient satisfaction, with pre-visit planning for lab testing. In a pre-visit planning scenario, lab tests are ordered in advance of scheduled office visits. Based on individual patient histories and the practice’s standard protocols, a patient is notified to come in several days before their appointment to complete any tests that must be performed prior to their visit. Because of the pending appointment deadline, patients are more likely to take care of testing in a timely manner.
When a patient arrives for his appointment, the physician has timely test results in hand for interpretation and within the context of physical findings. Now, the doctor can discuss the findings face-to-face with the patient to make sure he understands his results, and the two can discuss a treatment plan and establish achievable patient health goals.
From the patient standpoint, satisfaction is enhanced because her scheduled visit time is spent discussing her health, instead of determining which labs or diagnostics to order.
Test compliance is better and in turn, so is the quality of care – which can have financial implications for the practice. The practice saves time because the results are discussed in person, which eliminates the need for post-visit communication of test findings. Because patients have the opportunity to discuss the results and treatment with their physician in person, the volume of incoming phone calls and emails is substantially reduced.
When patients fail to follow doctors’ orders, complications can ensue. Improving patient compliance can not only improve patients’ health, it can also improve practice efficiencies and make both patients and doctors happier.