What Do Patients and Doctors Really Want from Health Care?

By Laura Fegraus
, Executive Director, CAPP

When it comes to the Triple Aim formula — lowering healthcare costs, improving health outcomes and enhancing patient experience — the national dialogue has been squarely focused the first two parts of the equation.  On Capitol Hill, the numerous “repeal and replace” efforts are missing the obvious focus on answering what might be most important question of all: “What do patients really want?”

As a leader in the movement toward organized, accountable healthcare, the Council for Accountable Physician Practices (CAPP) believes understanding patients’ wants and needs is critical to ensuring better health outcomes. As physicians, we also believe that the clinical perspective is integral to implementing meaningful health reform.

To help raise the profile of the patients and the physicians in the crowded national health care dialogue, CAPP conducted a national survey of consumers and physicians in 2016 to examine current physician practices and the patient care experience when it comes to key aspects of quality patient care. Our study found that most Americans are not receiving the kind of healthcare that results in better patient outcomes at a lower cost. It also revealed that less than one-third of Americans receive advice from their doctors about improving their activity levels and eating habits, or reminders about preventative screenings.

While the 2016 study, Patient Expectations and the Accountability Gap, identified gaps between what experts believe patients should be getting from their health care and what they are actually receiving, we realized we didn’t address what patients and doctors believe is important to improve their health outcomes.

That was the genesis for a new round of research, 2017 Consumer Health Care Priorities Study: What Patients Want from Their Providers, conducted earlier this year that tried to discern what consumers want and need from their healthcare providers and what matters most to them. The qualitative study also asked physicians want they want for their patients, regardless of cost, and then looked how those priorities compare to what consumers think they need. Startling similarities emerged between what patients and physicians want from the healthcare system in this country. It also highlighted some key differences.

While both doctors and patients felt that all selected attributes were important, the three top priorities were:

  • A strong doctor/patient relationship
  • Evidence-based medicine
  • Care coordination

Access to health care when needed was also deemed important by both patients and physicians, however, physicians rated prevention services more important than consumers.

This research shows that patients and physicians more often than not want the same attributes of a healthcare system. Both grasp the importance of care coordination and the use of evidence-based medicine in treatment, and both value a strong doctor-patient bond overall.

The disconnect over prevention services may be a communications issue, since previous CAPP research showed that 89% of doctors said they recommend preventive screenings, but only 14% patients said they had received reminders. This gap warrants further exploration — the physician-led health systems of CAPP strongly believe that both prevention and comprehensive care coordination are key elements to improving health outcomes and well-being.

As the debate continues over the future of the American health care system, CAPP encourages our legislators to listen closely to the people who have the most at stake: patients and the physicians who care for them.

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