Patients and Physicians Define Quality Health Care

New Research Finds They Agree Time with Physicians Is Important, but Differ on the Value of Preventive Measures

According to new consumer research by the Council of Accountable Physician Practices (CAPP), a coalition of leading multispecialty medical groups and health systems, patients and physicians agree that the patient-physician relationship is the crucial aspect that defines their vision of quality of health care services, followed by care coordination and treatment according to evidence-based guidelines.

However, patients and physicians differ in their perception of the value of preventive care. Patients view preventive care reminders as somewhat intrusive, while physicians place a high value on encouraging these services to achieve long-term health.

The research, 2017 Consumer Health Care Priorities Study: What Patients and Doctors Want from the Health Care System, conducted by the Southern California-based firm Public Values Research, examined patient and physician attitudes on the quality and delivery of health care services. Patients with commercial health insurance and physicians were queried via focus groups in various regions of the United States. The physicians worked in small or solo practices and in larger systems.

The research found that patients consider their relationship with their physician the most important determinant of quality health care, to the point that they would prefer access to their own doctor over having 24/7 access to any physician. They also highly valued coordinated care and evidence-based medicine, treatments based on proven methods and research.

“I want my doctors up to date,” said one participant who felt her husband’s providers did not provide the most current treatments available for his cancer care.

Physicians agreed with their patients on the importance of the patient-physician relationship, and cited the ability to coordinate care and use the latest research findings for clinical decisions as important in delivering superior health care.

However, patients were less enthusiastic than physicians regarding preventive care measures, which physicians believe are key to avoiding chronic conditions and staying healthy. Many respondents considered prevention services  impersonal and rote, and felt they were often dictated by their providers.

Doctors were far more skeptical than patients regarding the ability of electronic medical records (EMRs) to allow providers to work together and coordinate care. Most saw EMRs as a tool for coding and billing as opposed to enabling seamless care experiences.

Physicians also differed with patients on the issue of access, placing less emphasis on around-the-clock availability. In particular, physicians working in smaller practices said they preferred patients  to see any available doctor as opposed to providing services such as evening and weekend hours or a 24-hour advice line.   However, patients preferred seeing their own doctor as opposed to other providers.

Patients’ reaction about engaging with their providers through digital platforms was mixed. Older consumers were more comfortable with traditional face-to-face interactions, while millennials and other younger groups did not have enough significant health care issues to require ongoing engagement with their providers.

Physicians also placed a relatively low importance on electronic portals allowing patients to see their medical records.  They expressed doubts about the need for patients to view test results online, make appointments, or even email them directly. For the most part, patients were also skeptical that these digital options enhanced the quality of care they received.

According to CAPP Executive Director Laura Fegraus, the distance between patient and physician perspectives on preventive care must be addressed in the near-term.

“Given the U.S. health care system is the most expensive in the world, expanding access to preventive care is necessary to keep our cost trends in check and to ensure that Americans live longer and healthier lives,” she said. “It is critical that communications between patients and physicians improve so that preventive care is viewed as a mission for all.”

Fegraus also said, “The lack of experience with digital health may be due to patient trepidation with technology in health care. The findings indicate that health care providers must encourage engagement in patient-centered ways while also expanding access to critical health care services.”

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