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How PCPs can drive the future of primary care

Doctor practices with healthcare software

In a year when healthcare has been significantly disrupted, independent primary care providers are often leading the disruption. Providers with a more entrepreneurial spirit, including those not affiliated with a hospital or health system, have created shifts in the industry or taken innovative steps to meet patients where they are. They have built portals or tools customized for certain patient groups, or dedicated themselves to addressing specific health conditions. More and more these trends will shape the competitive landscape, as primary care providers will need to consider themselves as strategic businesses and patients as selective consumers. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated these trends.

Unfortunately, not all primary care providers are in the position to overhaul their business models or become industry disruptors. But they can still strengthen themselves as businesses and improve their care outcomes—meeting patients where they are and supporting them in the specific ways they need most. Focusing on the quantity of patients and trying to personally serve as many as possible is not efficient and often not feasible. Rather, identifying and targeting a patient population within the provider’s scope is much more manageable and effective. The operations models of many primary care innovators are in fact built on very small patient panels: 400–500 patient-consumers is emerging as the sweet spot.

Today, successful primary care providers are the ones who can segment patients by their clinical, financial and communication needs, and recognize which of these they’re best suited to fill. Patients are savvy enough to take their business (healthcare needs) to the provider that can offer tailored care. To identify the patients they can attract and serve most effectively, providers need robust population health data.

The tools for smart patient segmentation strategy are already here

There are many opportunities for primary care providers to use the information readily available to them to target and care for patients in new ways. An interoperable EHR system, one that delivers health data for patients throughout the local community, provides information on patients’ issues and preferences. This data is already used by clinicians to make the best care decisions for current patients, but it can also be used to attract and maintain patients in the future.

Using their EHR and population health solutions, providers can determine factors like patients’ visit frequencies, payment types and digital preferences. This information can help providers decide what their strengths are and how they’re best suited to deliver value to their patients and to themselves. They can then make small adjustments to adapt their services for their chosen patient segments.

Especially now, primary care providers have a key role in driving the health of their individual patients and their communities. It’s vital that these providers can continue operating as successful businesses, even as the landscape changes. Knowing exactly who their patients are – and delivering them personalized care – will lead to strong outcomes for providers and communities alike.

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