Updated: Jun 17
Continuity of Medical Care must be on Patient terms with the full understanding of the Procedure
Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash
Providing Medical care for a patient is more than just offering options and tools to heal them. Every patient’s care perpetually demands insurance of their wellbeing and minimizing the relapse of the same disease and occurrence of novel ailments. That is even more important concerning those with ongoing chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart failure, or high blood pressure. Furthermore, medical care gets even more complex among elderly and debilitated patients. Treating patients optimally doesn’t necessarily guarantee their long-lasting survival from ailments. But the reality is that, even under the most optimal setting, patients relapse, and they keep presenting to physicians’ offices and even the emergency rooms. That is a problem everyone who has worked in a healthcare setting is familiar with, merely because the patient care is utterly fragmented and the point of care often sporadic.
Continuity is the essence of Disease Treatment and Prevention
Prevention is the mother of all treatments!
That is what every sovereign healthcare system must embrace. Preventing disease is the early end of the spectrum within the medical care realm. For instance, a person with a family history of diabetes or a woman carrying hereditary risk factors for breast cancer deserves access to quality medical care long before they reach the point of disease manifest, especially if we need to fully contain the disease. Or supply the patient with the necessary logistics to get the follow-up care they need and expect after receiving medical care. The institution of a system that fulfills such requisite is called “Continuity of Care”. Continuity is the continual and invariant presence or process of something over some time. Since healthcare is about caring for individual patients for their unique needs and circumstances, continuity must also be considered a personal journey.
Continuity of Medical Care is essential, yet Personal
Cultivating continuity improves clinical outcomes and cost-effectiveness. Yet, it seems to occur minimally in practice. There are several justifications as to why this may be so. However, some reasons are structural, and others relate to training and the junior doctor’s need for adequate exposure to a variety of patients and their problems. Others blame other factors affecting continuity of care when consultants work together in joint specialty clinics. However, fundamental to the broken continuity of care is the lack of personalization and decentralization of healthcare logistics. The latter, in turn, requires a novel infrastructure both from a technology and protocol perspective.
Personalization or customization consists of conforming to care to adapt to particular individuals’ needs. And if we want to uphold continuity, we must also establish personalization.
“The biggest promoter of corporate medicine is sustained by the attitude of those who condemn personalized medicine by the merit of the erroneous title while promoting it under the imprecise definition” Adam Tabriz, MD
Current Challenges with Patient Care Continuity
Patient access to quality healthcare sets the ground zero for all patient encounters within the industry. Despite this importance, patient care admittance is not identical for all patients. Between appointment availability issues and troubles making schedules, finding the best timing for the clinic visit, and getting a ride to the clinician office, the patient care entree has many associated challenges.
Healthcare organizations are overcoming continuity by expanding their office hours to accommodate patient demands. Furthermore, some organizations exploit health information technology to allow patients to seek medical advice over Telehealth without being obliged to an office schedule that does not fit the patient’s needs. Even though Telehealth is appropriate under the right circumstances; nonetheless, it is far from serving as the perfect solution. Urgent care centers and retail clinics are also emerging players allowing patients to connect to care outside of a doctor’s office hours. But that does not imply continuity. Since the latter requires care to be delivered by the same clinician unless needed otherwise. They are quick fixes.
Patients living in rural zones are unduly more likely to brawl to access their clinician than a patient living in the urban zone. According to the American Hospital Association, with 57 million Americans living in rural areas, they face challenges, extending from where they live to having enough doctors to provide care.
Remote terrestrial location, small size, limited workforce, physician famines, and often inhibited financial resources pose an inimitable set of challenges for rural healthcare. Then again, Healthcare organizations have been using telemedicine to close care gaps triggered by geographic barriers. Direct-to-consumer telemedicine permits patients to use home computers or smartphones to teleconference with a clinician. Patients living in rural areas must also struggle with clinician scarcities.
Despite patients' convenient access to a clinic and scheduling an appointment with ease, transportation blocks can also hold back patients from seeing their clinicians. Patients who are physically unable to drive, those who face financial barriers, or otherwise cannot obtain transportation to the clinician’s office often go without care.
Healthcare organizations have also been falsifying their own relationships with Uber, Lyft, and other specialized medical transportation amenities.
Frequently, patient care access problems are not about having access to the clinic. But instead, it’s about being able to access the right clinician.
Continuity of Medical Care needs Personalization
Linking patients with the right medical care at the right time is a crucial patient care attitude. When a patient can easily access a physician or a healthcare provider, they will see a lessened possibility of developing a more serious illness later on in life.
Healthcare organizations need to have the right personalized care to ensure patients can easily access those care services.
Some studies associate the lack of continuity of care with a shortage of primary care physicians or General practitioners. However, a lack of primary care is a symptom and not a disease. One can hardly expect physicians to fill the gap of discontinued medical care when they are not at the center of decision-making. Physicians are overwhelmed with increasing administrative burdens and unsubstantiated quality determinants of their job. Apart from the quality of medical care, access to convenient care is one of the top drivers for patient care site choices. But such access requires quality resources and infrastructures to be handed to the clinicians too. In other words, throwing value-based markers at clinicians and expecting them to care for 30 patients in eight hours while penalizing them for performing less is nothing but an absurdity. Patients want to access their healthcare when they want and need it, called the demand for personalization. While it is indispensable for healthcare establishments to eliminate impediments barring patients from getting to the office, it is equally vital for administrations to make sure patients get to the right type of facility with well-invigorated clinicians.