Encouraging Employees to Visit their Primary Care Provider

Posted by: Joseph Habig
Date: October 19, 2017

Earlier detection of problems and healthier workplace populations


“For employers interested in lowering health care expenses, looking at whether your employees are aligned with a PCP is a step toward improving workforce health and more efficient health care spending.” –Joseph Habig, MD, Medical Director, LVPHO

At one time, patients only went to their family doctor when they were sick. As health care has taken on a broader scope to include preventive medicine, specialist care, and population health management, the role of the Primary Care Physician/Provider (PCP) has matured into an “air traffic controller” for a patient’s well-being. Employers concerned about rising employee health care costs can begin to take action by understanding and encouraging their employees to choose a PCP.

How Does Seeing a PCP Make a Difference?

When patients reach out to their PCP as their first health care resource, they’re already advantaged. PCPs can detect early signs of illness and often get them addressed quickly before they become more serious. (That’s why regular checkups and screenings are important, even when patients are feeling well.) The doctor can then direct the patient to the next proper step, whether it’s having a certain test, seeing a specialist, taking prescription medication, or simply applying self-care at home.

Having a dedicated PCP also enables a more comprehensive view of a patient’s care. Through electronic medical records, the primary doctor has access to a patient’s full medical history. Once a patient is attributed to a PCP through his or her insurance carrier, the PCP will also have access to insurance claims. When these two sources of information are combined and interpreted through health care analytics and informatics, the integrity of the view is multiplied. The doctor then has immense insight on the patient’s gaps in care, health and lifestyle trends, and opportunities for improvement.

The Health Care Team Concept

Research published by the Journal of Health Affairs notes that when patients are associated with a PCP, they have better management of chronic diseases, a higher level of satisfaction about their care, and lower overall costs. This is possible because of the collaboration inherent in the PCP-patient relationship, which encompasses enhanced communication between provider and patient, comprehensive information, and close interaction with other providers for resources and support.

In today’s world, increasingly PCPs do not practice alone. Ideally, they are aligned with a health system – as they are in our region through the Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) – involving a multidisciplinary community of clinicians, including physicians, nurses, technicians, pharmacists, and social workers, to determine and provide the proper “total health” care for each patient.

Read one example of how this collaboration is beneficial here.

How Employers can Help

Employers are the largest purchaser of health care in the United States, and unfortunately, pay a premium for what often turns out to be high-cost, low-value care. As a result, today’s employers are dealing with, across the board, approximately 45 million employee sick days per year.*

To impact their bottom line, employers would benefit from promoting PCPs and their benefits among their employee population. The PCP relationship encompasses the fundamental elements necessary for driving change in the health care system and may ultimately lower costs. These elements include promoting healthy lifestyles, identifying health conditions early, managing chronic conditions, educating, recognizing high-quality, high-value care, and utilizing comprehensive health data for actionable insights.

Here is a review of ways employers can have an impact:

  • Help employees become healthier people by encouraging PCP affiliation
  • Encourage employees to seek PCPs aligned with a collaborative network of high-quality, high-value care
  • Become involved in advocacy programs (example: Choosing Wisely®, a national initiative that advocates reducing waste in health care spending by providing the right care at the right time in a manner in which patients understand)
  • Join in efforts to encourage medical students to pursue primary care as a career path (out of 18,000 U.S. medical graduates every year, only 25 percent go into primary care)**

For more information on how to affect health care costs in your company, visit https://www.populytics.com/who-we-help/employers/

For more information on Choosing Wisely®, visit http://www.valleypreferred.com/about-us/who-we-work-with/partners-sponsorships/choosing-wisely.aspx

*https://www.pcpcc.org/sites/default/files/resources/rwjf403361.pdf
** http://kaiserf.am/2gimD1R
http://content.healthaffairs.org/content/27/1/151.full