Matt Poffenroth, MD, MBA, is board-certified in Internal Medicine, Vice President with Inova Health System and serves as Chief Executive Officer and Chief Medical Officer for Signature Partners Network, the clinically integrated network associated with Inova Health System. In this interview he explores how the recent wave of Primary Care startups are changing the way patients and providers interact, and how technology is providing greater access for patients.
What is the role of the Medical Group inside a health system today?
The role of the medical group is continually evolving – mostly due to the changing payment models. Within a fee-for-service model, the role of the primary care physician is to refer into the system for specialty, hospital, imaging services, etc. The Medical Group is sometimes seen as a “loss-leader” on the balance sheet, and instead of investing in the medical group, executives look to cut costs.
When we look at a risk-based model, it’s the opposite. The Medical Group is responsible for population health and risk management and it becomes more important to invest and focus on the patient as a whole, coordinate care amongst a team, and build loyalty as revenue and savings are valued more holistically versus transactional.
When it comes to patient loyalty, what is the role of the Primary Care Physician?
Patients are still very loyal to their primary care physician (PCP) when they feel engaged. There is a tremendous opportunity to leverage the role of the PCP, invest in their services, and nurture the relationship with the patient to drive loyalty across the entire network.
Are Healthcare systems focused on the right goals to gain patient loyalty?
They are certainly focused on patient satisfaction, but it’s limited. Most healthcare systems are not dedicating enough resources to manage the breadth of information that patients now have access to, or coordinating resources to be proactive in managing patient care. We have to recognize that healthcare, like most other industries, is becoming technology driven: online content, 24/7 access, and social networks. If we’re not proactively engaging with the patients in our system, someone else is.
How can health systems make better use of technology to improve the way patients experience Primary Care?
Today, health systems are using technologies, like putting robotics into operating rooms, that are high-revenue generation, but also high-cost and touch fewer patients overall. Healthcare has been less focused on the patient experience – For sick patients, how do they interact with a physician online, what information do they have access to, or even using machine learning to empower patients with self-directed care. Healthcare also isn’t investing in their patients when they are well. We can leverage technology to interact with our patients when it’s time for vaccines, preventative medicine, or just to check in and say hello.
Focusing on the patient/consumer in an outpatient setting is somewhat disconnected from the traditional model. How do you convince providers this change is essential?
First, they have to be willing to look at a patient as a consumer. Once providers understand this, the whole model changes. It’s about engaging with them, converting them as loyalists, and ensuring they come back to you every time even with increased choices.
The other part of the conversation, which physicians have less control over, is how compensation models affect patient experience. If a provider gets paid based on volume, and not paid for doing things outside of the exam room, then answering emails or text messages outside office hours doesn’t happen – even if patients want and expect this type of interaction. Those health systems that figure out how to incentivize or provide support to providers will get ahead.
How has SymphonyRM’s Next Best Actions (NBAs) helped you transform toward this more consumer-focused model?
With SymphonyRM, we are getting a different level of insight into our patient population and being proactive about reaching out – whether it’s to close a care gap, or just to get them in for an annual exam.
The other huge value is recognizing that we have a limited number of opportunities to touch a patient. SymphonyRM helps us optimize every interaction with tailored and prioritized next best actions. So, when we have a patient on the phone or in the office, we can complete all of these actions at once. Patients appreciate it and feel cared about when we are doing everything we can to coordinate their healthcare.
Moving to a consumer-focused model is increasing patient-loyalty and turning our primary care physician practices into profit centers.
What other capabilities has SymphonyRM enabled for your Medical Group?
Network integrity is a key component to patient-centered care. SymphonyRM is helping us coordinate efforts and look at the lifetime value of each patient. We’re looking to expand to scheduling capabilities and referral management to make sure that patients are receiving all of the appropriate care they need within our system.
Another critical aspect is coordinating communication efforts – from the call center to marketing – SymphonyRM allows us to set up regular and targeted marketing campaigns to our patient population to make them aware of any current clinical initiatives to support their next best actions. In our system, we’ve started with primary care, and planning to bring on specialty care, so we can truly integrate our intelligence and interactions across our entire network.