At the conclusion of a recent doctor visit, he gave me his cell phone number saying, “Call me anytime if you need anything or have questions.”
In disbelief, I wondered if this was a generational thing – and whether physicians in their late thirties had now ‘gone digital’.
My only other data point was our family pediatrician, who is also in her late thirties. Our experience with her dates back nearly seven years when my wife and I were expecting twins. A few pediatricians we met with mentioned their willingness to correspond with patients’ families via email as a convenience to parents. The pediatrician we ultimately selected wasn’t connected with patients outside of the office at that time, but now will exchange emails.
At TripleTree we’re seeing clear signs that progressive, consumer-centric physicians and practices are making efforts to improve their customer service by encouraging digital access via email and cell phone.
Will physician connectedness and accessibility be a key driver in how consumers select their physicians in the future?
Amid the growing focus on data regarding ‘physician quality’ (still hard to find and define), and ‘price transparency’ (just starting to gain traction), is the reality that recommendations from family and friends have been and are still a highly reliable patient referral stream for physicians.
The economics of the fee-for-service payment environment in U.S. healthcare doesn’t incentivize providers to interact with patients outside of office visits. However, we see the ubiquity of technologies and care approaches like tele-health driving market changes, with some payers beginning to reimburse for telephone or web-based provider interactions.
What is the likelihood that providers will soon bill their patients for time spent on phone calls or responding to emails?
If the rise in healthcare consumerism combined with the move to fee-for-value (from fee-for-service) is real, providers will need to be more accessible to their patients in order to prevent the need for acute care and thus lower costs. Whether that accessible provider is a physician or a member of a physician-led team will likely evolve alongside models of care.
Having my doctor’s cell phone number was empowering and while I didn’t call him, I was glad to know I could.
The author is a healthcare analyst at TripleTree.