Trust is important to us. We trust our business associates to be honest, we trust our partners to be faithful, and we trust our children not to act like Ferris Bueller when we are at work. According to tennis legend, Arthur Ashe, “Trust has to be earned, and should come only after the passage of time.” In business, however, trust is often in the eye of the beholder. PwC’s 2022 Consumer Intelligence Series Survey on Trust showed an unnerving gap in beliefs about trust levels between businesses and their customers. Their research revealed that almost 90% of business executives think that their customers have a high level of trust in their business, but the reality is that only 30% of consumers say they actually do trust their business partners.
This valuable commodity of trust also plays a central role in the relationship between physician and patient. Doctors are trusted with the very health and lives of their patients. Families need to trust that their medical professional is caring and knowledgeable, and makes recommendations which are in the best interest of loved ones. Without trust, physicians would not be able to build a successful private practice where they are able to leverage that trust on behalf of their patients.
Unfortunately, trust in the medical profession has eroded in the past few years due to the COVID pandemic, social disparities, and misinformation. Research by Deloitte Insights specifically found that trust in health care remains an important issue among certain cultural groups, particularly within those groups who identify as Black, Asian, Hispanic, and Native American. Their focus group research found that fifty-five percent of the participants reported a negative experience where they lost trust in a health care provider, and thirty-six percent had skipped or avoided care because they did not like the way the health care provider or their staff treated them. To be effective, it is crucial that the doctor-patient relationship is grounded in trust. This article looks at some of the ways private practice physicians leverage trust with patients.
Why Private Practices Should Build Trust with Patients
The trust factor is crucial to working with patients in the independent practice setting, and it is a foundational element of the value-based care relationship. When trust is established, the provider can use it to influence key behaviors and health outcomes of patients. In fact, a 2019 Primary Care Collaborative analysis revealed a direct association between increased primary care investment and better patient outcomes. Some examples of leveraging trust to generate positive outcomes include:
- Encouraging patients to take an active role in their own healthcare, thereby positively impacting outcomes.
- Increasing adherence to medication, diet and exercise regimens.
- Improving screening, vaccination, and testing adherence.
- Building acceptance of telemedicine, remote patient monitoring, patient portals, and digital technologies which can improve communication and information-sharing opportunities.
- Generating patient satisfaction, building long-term relationships, and motivating referrals.
At a community level, independent clinicians can leverage high levels of trust with their patients to help improve overall healthcare for the at-risk, vulnerable, or underserved populations. Medical teams can work with social services and government representatives to increase clinic, internet, and medical care opportunities. In one case study at the Thomas Chittenden Health Center in Vermont, the clinic was able to receive capitated payments to provide care for about 30 percent of its low-income patients through an innovative all-payer pilot program. These additional funds, along with the more predictable revenue stream they generated, enabled the Health Center to give its primary care clinicians a raise, hire more staff, and offer additional services such as nutritional counseling and psychiatry.
The Center also leveraged its electronic health record (EHR) system to flag patients with out-of-control chronic conditions, identify those most in need of preventive care, and generate automated patient calls or messages. Between 2016 and 2019, the number of hypertensive patients with their blood pressure under control rose to 59% from 54%, and patients with diabetes under control went to 89% from 85%. The system also automatically contacts families with children who are overdue for annual wellness exams, and reminds providers to ask about HPV and other vaccinations.
Ways that Independent Primary Care Physicians Can Build Trust with Patients
There are many ways to build trust, through the human, administrative, and technological sides of the patient-doctor relationship:
- Have an easy appointment and check-in process. Patients will become less trusting if they find that it is hard to work with your practice on the front-office side. Allow them to schedule appointments online, and send reminders for those appointments via email, text, or phone. Make sure only absolutely necessary paperwork is requested, and have ways to complete it online before the appointment. Verify insurance eligibility before visits and let patients know precisely what your services will cost them.
- Use the visit to focus on the patient, not the technology. Patients want to know that their physician is listening and paying attention to their concerns. Limit outside distractions, ask questions, and listen closely to your patient’s responses. Use an EHR with templates that can guide you through the examination process, and easily capture your notes so you will have an accurate representation of the interaction.
- Make sensible use of data. Show that your practice uses the data it collects to improve diagnostic capabilities, create better treatment plans, and increase levels of patient care.
- Leverage the digital tools at your disposal to improve patient health levels. Look at your population health figures and create programs to address areas of the most critical need.
- Have an easy billing process. Practices that submit a high number of claims that get rejected and then make patients handle the resolution process are not seen in a favorable light.
- Increase interoperability capabilities, so patients don’t have to track down their most recent lab work or test results in order to have a meaningful visit with their provider, or to coordinate care efforts with referred specialists.
- Utilize e-Prescription capabilities, to make it easier for patients to obtain needed medications without having to play phone tag with office staff.
- Encourage communication in many formats. Have a robust patient portal where providers routinely communicate with patients to answer questions and discuss treatment plans. Use regular telehealth appointments to supplement in-person care and follow-up more closely with your chronic care population.
- Respect patient confidentiality. A data breach or HIPAA violation are surefire trust destroyers. Focus on privacy and security with team members, and with the software providers which provide the EHR and billing tools that keep your practice running smoothly.
Amazing Charts Helps Independent Practices Use Powerful Digital Solutions to Leverage Patient Trust
In 2001, a practicing physician who was familiar with the challenges independent practices and their patients face formed Amazing Charts, to provide efficient solutions to these problems. Today, Amazing Charts offers a variety of capabilities to help small, private practices provide better patient service, and leverage trust, including Electronic Health Records (EHR), Practice Management, Medical Billing Services, Population Health, Telehealth, and Remote Care. Call 866-382-5932 or visit our website to learn about our products, schedule a practice consultation, arrange a free trial, and find more information about how independent primary care clinicians can leverage trust.