Healthcare Revisited

Consider how healthcare should be…

We do NOT need more PCP’s

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The obvious fact is that despite the pending shortage of primary care providers (PCP’s)there’s no way to increase their numbers in a timely way. But that’s OK. Why? Because what we need isn’t more availability of PCP’s, it’s more availability of primary care services. That’s a subtle distinction, but an important one.

Another way to say this is that what we really need is not more providers, but a better way to meet healthcare consumer’s needs; and in order to do that well, the we’ve got to better understand what those needs are.

When a patient wants the healthcare system to manage a complex chronic disease like diabetes, their needs could probably be expressed as something like, “build a trusting relationship with me, know my medical history well, and create an effective long-term care plan”. Traditional primary care generally (well, maybe the better word is “hopefully”) does a pretty good job of meeting these kinds of needs.

Now imagine the same person who now wants the healthcare system to manage a itching, burning, uncomfortable (but clinically non-urgent) rash. Now their needs are different. What they want is more like, “Evaluate me ASAP, make sure I don’t have something more serious, get me the medication I need, and make it happen conveniently and cheaply”.

Our traditional primary care system is notoriously bad about meeting this second set of low acuity, high volume “On-Demand” consumer needs. The good news is that there are potential solutions that provide more availability of primary care services and better meet patient’s desires for on-demand care. Read the rest of this entry »