How PTs Can Improve Collaboration with Primary-Care Providers

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Pursuing integrated-care relationships with outside healthcare partners

As the healthcare industry transitions to value-based care, there’s no denying the positive changes and collaboration opportunities awaiting physical therapists. That doesn’t mean there won’t be difficulties, however, as entering into new integrated-care relationships can feel overwhelming and wrought with challenges.

Not only are healthcare providers busy trying to keep up with new regulations, such as MACRA (and MIPS), but they are also working through payer transitions inspired by value-based care: trying to grasp what, exactly, a new care model means to their workflow and bottom line.

Despite these challenges — and perhaps because of them — physical therapy practices should pursue the best possible integrated-care relationships with their outside healthcare partners.

Collaborating more closely with primary-care physicians in particular, offers mutually beneficial opportunities, especially given the traditional disconnect between the two care modalities. For example, when PCPs work with PTs, their patients are exposed to alternatives to opioids and expensive clinical interventions. This can help improve a patient’s likelihood of recovery through rehabilitation while lessening the risk for negative consequences, such as drug dependency. Integrating care with PCPs will not only improve patient care for PTs, but the efficiency gains from coordinating care will also help them save costs and increase profit margins.

The willingness of PCPs to collaborate will likely increase, too, given these benefits.

Proactive PCPs who lead the charge toward integrated care will better position themselves to demonstrate more value to patients and clinical partners, and reap the benefits of higher patient satisfaction.

Given the momentum toward integrated care, PTs can align more closely with PCPs by doing the following:

  • laying the foundation for a new relationship. To forge solid, collaborative relationships, physicial therapists must actually convey a desire to work with their primary-care physicians. Talk to your patients’ PCPs about what you can do to improve patient outcomes or help them meet their objectives.
  • future proofing technology. PTs should ensure their technology allows for interoperable data exchange. And while PTs aren’t eligible to participate in MIPS until at least 2019, it’s smart to use 2018 to upgrade technology to align with larger value-based care goals for interoperability and care coordination.
  • evaluating vendor-partner relationships. A healthcare provider’s success is contingent upon a variety of factors, but the relationship between a provider and a vendor partner is a big one. There’s no time like the present to evaluate whether your EHR vendor is helping to support value-based care goals: A vendor should be flexible and knowledgeable about changing regulations. If a vendor does not meet these criteria, it may be time to shop around.
  • improving patient engagement efforts. Value-based care is more than just coordinating with other specialties; it also means doing more to engage with patients. While patient portals and mobile apps are a great start for PTs, there’s still more that can be done. For example, PTs may consider boosting their use of tools such as e-newsletters (filled with educational materials and resources) to strengthen patient-provider relationships and drive positive outcomes.

Providers that can effectively align with PTs will find they have an easier experience transitioning into value-based care. Additionally, patients will also benefit from a more integrated relationship between PTs and PCPs that focuses on their whole health, not just acute physical issues.

References

1. http://www.apta.org/PQRS/

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Charles Hutchinson

Charles Hutchinson is a financial and regulatory healthcare expert who serves as the chief financial officer of InSync, a technology solutions provider that makes specialty EHRs for physical therapy practices.

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