Improving the physician experience and supporting patient care
By Mary Mulcare, MD, Summus Chief Medical Officer
Since the beginning of medicine, it has been common practice for doctors to talk to one another and share learnings and insights as a way to further patient care. In today’s healthcare environment, even with many notable advancements in diagnostics, treatments, and procedures, communication between doctors remains vital to helping patients achieve optimal health.
Ask any physician and they can attest to the importance of communication with peers. For example, I frequently receive text messages and phone calls from medical school friends and physician colleagues who want my expertise in emergency medicine and geriatrics to help them determine the appropriate care for their patients. Recently, I received a text from a friend that read:
Scanned an older adult patient looking for the source of his weakness, found a non-descript fluid collection anterior to right hip. He has lymphedema in that leg and general bursitis pain. Given he has a pacemaker, do you think we can start with ultrasound over MRI for better definition?
Identifying opportunities to streamline communication among peers is increasingly important amidst continued doctor shortages and increasing workloads. Given physician expertise is paramount, technology that accelerates access for doctors to communicate with one another will improve the physician experience, support patient care and outcomes, and ultimately bolster the healthcare system.
No single doctor has all the answers, all the time. Doctors, such as primary care physicians (PCPs) often require the expertise of specialists to provide high quality care for their patients. PCPs are the medical home—the first step in addressing a patient’s healthcare needs. When a patient requires specialized care that extends beyond their typical scope of practice, PCPs need the guidance of specialists and subspecialists.
Peer-to-peer communication supports a patient’s medical home
With access to leading specialists, PCPs (among others) are well positioned to reduce the need for in-person appointments with a specialist, and make those necessary visits more effective for the patient and specialist by having the required testing completed in advance. For example, a patient with a history of recurrent kidney stones will likely want to understand how to reduce their risk in the future. The PCP can leverage technology to access specialist expertise—a urologist who is experienced and knowledgeable about the different types of stones, their causes, appropriate testing, and prevention opportunities to provide answers. The PCP then directs their patient on the appropriate course of action, creating a path forward in their care.
Answers across the spectrum of health and care complexity
Communication among a care team of physicians, including PCPs and specialists and subspecialists, synchronizes management of the most complex patient care journeys, and even condenses care cycles—the steps followed to achieve optimal patient care. Using virtual healthcare technology coupled with an escalation model based on patient case complexity, PCPs have new opportunities to integrate peer-to-peer consultations into their practices and support value-based care models. No matter the health concern, leading specialists are ready to support PCPs by providing answers and clinical guidance to direct patient treatment paths.
Summus’ Peer-to-Peer market-differentiating escalation model facilitates dynamic, asynchronous and synchronous communication options. Asynchronous communication may be used to get human validation of a treatment path within a few hours (e.g., titration or class of medication), while synchronous video consultation may be used to have an in-depth discussion with a specialist (e.g., clinical guidance on interpreting various tests ordered). For the most complex cases requiring in person care, vetted referrals are made within a day and take into account provider quality, cost, and insurance coverage.
Both PCP and patient benefit
Both physicians and patients benefit from peer-to-peer consultations that alleviate the need for costly referrals to specialists. Benefits for PCPs include: access to a broad network of medical expertise across specialties, growth opportunities to learn from the nation’s top doctors, the ability to control costs in capitated arrangements, and ongoing revenue by maintaining their patients within their practice. But most importantly, peer-to-peer communication improves the overall PCP-patient relationship, reinforcing trust and ability to provide valued guidance.
Patients benefit from shorter wait times from diagnosis to treatment, fewer appointments and logistical challenges (e.g., transportation, dependent care) associated with visits to multiple doctors, continuity of care from their treating physician, and reduced out-of-pocket costs from avoiding unnecessary in person specialist visits. For certain patients, their PCPs’ access to expert answers can mean the difference between many false starts and a streamlined healthcare experience.
Peer-to-peer consultations are transforming healthcare by solving the challenges of access and delays in care resulting from ongoing doctor shortages and hospital closures. Read the press release and our Peer-to-Peer solution overview for more information.