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5 Strategies to Improve the Quality of Healthcare

Jon-Michial Carter
Written by Jon-Michial Carter

Historically, healthcare models relied on reactive care. The American healthcare system largely operates by responding to emergencies, unexpected diagnoses, and patients struggling with deteriorated health and debilitating symptoms. The reactive approach emphasizes curing a disease or mitigating symptoms rather than preventing disease development. 

Reactive care often proves ineffective, expensive, and suboptimal. This is especially true for patients struggling with one or more chronic conditions, who often juggle multiple medications, providers, and illness-related challenges. 

Improving care quality for individual patients requires a paradigm shift toward preventative care and a value-based care delivery model. Healthcare practices can also facilitate better care quality by accounting for the patient’s individual needs, cultural perspectives, social and economic factors, and mental health. 

In this article, we will explore how your practice can influence healthcare quality on an individual level for patients through employing preventative care, increased communication, care coordination, and patient activation. We will also explore how ChartSpan’s suite of services can help your practice deliver top-tier healthcare to your patient population.

What does it mean to improve the quality of healthcare? 

The quality of healthcare is improved by administering effective and efficient solutions, coordinating seamless care across networks and practices, lowering patient costs, and encouraging proactive patient engagement. Ensuring patients can access physicians in a timely fashion is a hallmark of high-quality care, as is delivering care individualized to their preferences and personal healthcare journey. 

The efficacy of the care delivered ultimately measures healthcare quality. Therefore, any strategy that facilitates positive clinical outcomes and better quality of life contributes to higher-quality care. 

Healthcare quality is further improved through incorporating ancillary services that facilitate patient engagement, proactivity, and better clinical outcomes. This can include integrating behavioral healthcare into primary care, increasing communication and patient monitoring through care managers, and holistic and futuristic wellness planning. 

Preventative, patient-centered care leads to higher patient activation and engagement and strengthens health literacy. This facilitates higher-quality care and encourages positive clinical outcomes for patient populations. 

By empowering patients to take charge of their health and well-being and fostering a culture of proactivity, engagement, and collaboration, we can pave the way for a healthcare system that reshapes how patients interact with their healthcare journeys. 

What defines high-quality care?

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the National Academy of Medicine have identified seven markers to gauge high-quality care. According to these organizations, high-quality care should be: 

  • Safe: High-quality care provided to a patient should never cause harm, exacerbate illnesses, or place the patient in unnecessarily compromising positions. 
  • Effective: High-quality care should be evidence-based and tailored to a patient’s conditions, avoiding treatments that are unlikely to benefit the patient. 
  • People-centered: A person’s individual needs and preferences, including their cultural background and personal values, are thoughtfully considered and taken into consideration at every stage of their care journey. 
  • Timely: Patients should not have to endure prolonged wait periods to receive critical care, especially when delays can harm their health. 
  • Equitable: High-quality care is delivered equitably regardless of gender, race, religion, ethnicity, socio-economic status, sexuality, geographic location, and other personal characteristics.
  • Efficient: High-quality care avoids wasting the resources, time, money, and energy of both providers and patients.
  • Integrated: A patient’s care journey should strive for consistency in quality across healthcare networks and provide patients with maximum access to all relevant health services.

Healthcare quality is an incredibly broad topic that manifests in various ways depending on the practice. However, these core principles apply across the spectrum of healthcare and should be incorporated into the heart of any strategy to improve healthcare services. 

Five strategies to improve the quality of healthcare

1. Emphasize preventative care 

Patients who engage in preventative care receive higher quality care and see better longitudinal clinical results. Research demonstrates this across many fields, including cancer, chronic disease, infectious disease, mental health, substance abuse, oral health, and vision. 

Developments in modern medicine increasingly offer unprecedented insights into a patient’s individualized risk factors, providing the opportunity for disease prevention, mitigation, and long-term health. A patient's unique health risks and gaps in care emerge through observing familial health patterns, lifestyle and behavioral factors, mental health, and social status. 

Advances in vaccinations, screenings, and lab tests allow patients to engage with their health's future proactively. Practices and physicians have the opportunity to communicate this paradigm to their patient population. Shifting patients from a reactive to a proactive approach to their health will transform the quality of care they experience for the rest of their lives.

One way practices can introduce preventative care to their Medicare patients is through the implementation of Annual Wellness Visits (AWVs). Unlike a traditional annual physical or sick visit, AWVs are futuristic in scope. Patients complete dynamic Health Risk Assessments (HRAs) that collate individual risk factors and identify care gaps and missing screenings. Healthcare providers then use this information to create individualized wellness plans that include cancer screenings, blood work and lab tests, vaccinations, and lifestyle adjustments. 

AWVs emphasize preventative care rather than symptom mitigation, ideally preventing the further development or progression of disease amongst the patients who engage with their care plans. Additionally, CMS fully reimburses eligible beneficiaries for AWVs.

Learn more: The Ultimate Guide to Annual Wellness Visits

2. Address patients’ Social Determinants of Health (SDOHs)

According to the Health Research and Educational Trust, social and economic factors influence a patient’s health outcomes more than clinical care, physical environments, and individual health behaviors. These factors, often called Social Determinants of Health (SDOHs), include food insecurity, lack of housing, social isolation, racial discrimination, poverty, and lack of access to transportation. 

Addressing SDOHs contributes to greater patient engagement, healthier patient behaviors, reduced resource use, and positive clinical outcomes. To improve the quality of healthcare for your patients, intervene to address patients’ SDOHs when appropriate and with patient consent.  

For example, 3.6 million Americans forgo medical care yearly because of a lack of access to transportation. Over a million American children miss medical appointments because their caregivers cannot provide them with transportation. Simply getting patients to their recommended appointments, risk screenings, and vaccinations can have transformative, long-lasting impacts on their overall health. 

A patient without transportation may cancel a mammogram appointment scheduled for them to close an outstanding care gap determined by their primary care physician. If this patient does have breast cancer, it may be months or even years before they reschedule this screening, giving time for the cancer to worsen and possibly spread. 

The patient has lost valuable time to take proactive care measures and now faces a more complicated, time-consuming, and expensive recovery journey. If this example patient had access to arranged transportation, their healthcare narrative could be radically altered. 

There are numerous ways in which practices can collaborate with patients, communities, and external companies to address SDOHs. One effective measure is through Chronic Care Management (CCM)

CCM companies provide enrolled Medicare beneficiaries with monthly calls to track progress and document concerns. Care managers can access solutions and resources, like transportation, to alleviate patients struggling with negative SDOHs. This also includes helping financially struggling patients access local food banks and community resources that can provide them with nutritious food or connecting lonely, isolated patients with social groups to foster better mental health. 

Strategic interventions targeting SDOHs improve healthcare quality by delivering patient-centered, personalized care to each patient. Addressing SDOHs ensures that patients receive holistic care that addresses environmental and social concerns that profoundly impact clinical outcomes. 

Learn more: How Chronic Care Management improves access to care

3. Increase the cadence of communication with patients

In the absence of consistent communication, healthcare is often reactive and suboptimal in quality. If a patient’s only communication with their healthcare provider is during emergencies, it is challenging to map out effective and holistic treatment plans. 

Engaging patients with chronic illnesses in frequent communication that extends beyond an annual physical or sick visit is essential. When patients have regular contact with their physicians, specialists, or care managers, the opportunity for proactive care increases, and the overall quality of their care improves.

For example,  if a patient encounters problematic side effects from a newly prescribed medication, they can raise these concerns with medical professionals. Without a regular cadence of contact, they may rely on their instincts, information crowdsourced from the internet and social media, or anecdotal advice from their friends and family. 

They may decide to discontinue the medication, which could result in progressive deterioration of their conditions. If their next appointment is six months away, the damage could potentially be done before their provider learns of this decision and can effectively intervene. However, if patients are receiving a monthly call from a CCM service like ChartSpan, care managers can intercede in these scenarios before any harm transpires.

Eligible Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in Chronic Care Management (CCM) services receive a dedicated call from a care manager each month. These contact points are perfect for patients to discuss new or worsening symptoms, medication concerns, social and economic hindrances like transportation access or food insecurity, or depression and anxiety related to their medical conditions. 

Care managers can intervene with self-management tips and materials and can assist patients in scheduling appointments with the appropriate healthcare providers to ensure that these issues do not go unaddressed. CCM companies also offer patients access to a 24/7/365 nurse care line, ensuring patients are able to communicate with medical professionals at any time of day, every day of the year. 

When patients’ needs are addressed early and effectively, they face better prospects for recovery and quality of life. Employing clinical strategies that increase communication with patients, like Chronic Care Management, generates opportunities for early intervention. 

Learn more: What is the difference between case managers and care managers?

4. Educate and empower patients

Educated, engaged patients who take an active role in their health see better clinical outcomes and improved quality of care. Health literacy helps patients know when they should seek care for newly developed symptoms and encourages patients to proactively close gaps in care by receiving vaccinations and risk screenings.

Activated, engaged patients were also found to have lower healthcare costs. Engaged patients have demonstrated more effective self-advocacy, which contributes to higher participation and patient satisfaction. All of these factors contribute to more effective, higher-quality care.

It is easy for patients to become overwhelmed by the amount of health information available and the complexity of navigating the healthcare system. Practices should take the time to educate patients on their conditions and provide them with reliable, medically sound resources to continue this education beyond the walls of the doctor’s office. Though this may demand a higher up-front investment of time and energy, patients who can manage their healthcare journeys will ultimately reduce costs and resource use. 

CCM care managers can assist practices by providing patients with educational materials about their conditions, medications, and self-management. This reduces practice workload and assists patients in continuing their education between appointments. 

Creating patients who can successfully advocate for their needs and confidently navigate the healthcare landscape is a powerful strategy for any healthcare practice looking to improve the quality of healthcare they provide.

5. Incorporate behavioral healthcare 

Despite the overwhelming evidence that a patient’s mental and physical health are inextricably linked, mental and behavioral healthcare services remain inaccessible, cost-prohibitive, and stigmatized for large swathes of the American population. 

Integrated Behavioral Health Care (IBHC) services seek to break down these barriers by seamlessly integrating behavioral healthcare into the primary care setting. By extending access to behavioral care to primary care practices, your patients can receive comprehensive treatment without complications, disruption, or discomfort. This innovative model of high-quality care delivery encourages patients to meaningfully engage with their mental health as they navigate their care journey. 

Behavioral healthcare also provides targeted benefits to chronically ill patients. Nearly one-third of patients with a chronic health condition also experience a mental health illness, most commonly depression and anxiety. Depression and anxiety can contribute to destructive and unhealthy behaviors like smoking, alcohol misuse, and poor nutrition. 

Mental health struggles can also manifest through physical symptoms like insomnia, fatigue, and decreased motivation for physical activity and exercise. They may lead patients to socially isolate, which further compounds poor mental and physical health. 

By extending access to mental health services to chronically ill patients, the overall scope and quality of their care is elevated. 

Learn more: Five reasons to offer Integrated Behavioral Health Services

Elevate your practice’s healthcare quality through ChartSpan’s services

ChartSpan is an industry leader in innovative, full-service healthcare solutions. We have a nationwide presence and years of experience across a variety of settings, including primary care offices, rural clinics and hospitals, and specialty practices. Helping providers improve the quality of care they deliver to their patients is a core value of our company. 

Through Annual Wellness Visit software, turnkey CCM management services, and Behavioral Health Integration solutions, we are ready to partner with your practice and transform patient outcomes and practice profitability. 

Here’s how partnering with ChartSpan can help your practice improve healthcare quality:

Improve wellness planning through AWV software

Medicare’s AWV service offers eligible beneficiaries an annual opportunity to strategically plan the future of their healthcare journey with their provider. While fully covered by CMS, this service is often overlooked or underused due to confusion around coverage parameters. 

ChartSpan’s innovative RapidAWV™ technology streamlines AWV implementation into any office’s workflow through dynamic, user-friendly software. With RapidAWV™, you can customize HRAs to collect the data most relevant to your practice and patients and administer the assessments in the comfort and ease of your waiting room. 

Patients can complete these HRAs on iPads, smartphones, or desktops while they await regularly scheduled appointments. The AWV software will then deliver collated health risk information to the provider, allowing them to easily engage patients in a proactive and comprehensive dialogue about their wellness journey. Our real-time eligibility checks ensure every AWV you deliver is reimbursable through CMS.

Through AWVs, patients can close gaps in care and plan for an optimal and healthy future, elevating their future quality of care. 

Increase communication and engagement through full-service Chronic Care Management

ChartSpan’s CCM service creates a yearlong cadence of communication and engagement with your eligible, chronically ill patient population. Monthly calls from care managers ensure that patients are never isolated in their care journey and have ample opportunities to seek support from compassionate professionals between clinical visits. 

We help keep patients accountable to the preventative care plans laid out by your practice. We can also help eliminate roadblocks that could impede patients from receiving optimal quality care, like lack of transportation access, social isolation, or financial strain. 

CCM services give patients with chronic conditions the advocates and resources required to seek high-quality care despite the many challenges they face. Our full-service CCM solution helps your practice identify and enroll eligible patients, thoroughly document and record services provided, and keep patients activated and satisfied. 

Through our CCM offering, we can help improve the quality of care you offer while opening up new recurring revenue streams*, all without burdening your practice with extraneous work or resource utilization. 

*Results may vary by provider. 

Provide holistic care with Behavioral Health Integration

At ChartSpan, we strive to provide patients with care that addresses both the physical and mental challenges patients face. Opening up access to mental healthcare improves the whole-person health of patients and positions them to make positive choices in the future. This results in a lifetime of improved care quality and proactive patient engagement. 

Contact our team to learn about the many behavioral healthcare services reimbursed by Medicare and how ChartSpan can help your practice implement mental healthcare into your workflow. 

Partner with ChartSpan and transform care quality

Through compassionate, consistent communication, a commitment to patient education, and proactive wellness planning, ChartSpan helps practices deliver high-quality care to patients every day. ChartSpan offers your practice a collaborative partnership with industry professionals and actionable strategies that target healthcare quality. 

Partner with ChartSpan and explore how Chronic Care Management, Annual Wellness Visits, and Behavioral Health Integration can transform the quality of care you provide your patients.

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