How do we guarantee that patients get the care they deserve amid misdiagnoses, administrative burdens and with large groups of under-served populations? Direct Health (now called Direct Health) CEO, Clint Phillips tackled this and other pressing industry concerns on the most recent episode of the Relentless Health Value podcast.

Patients as Healthcare Managers

When patients are diagnosed with a serious or special condition, they are often left to navigate the complex web of healthcare on their own. Many hospital and provider networks are not equipped to provide optimal care for specialized diagnoses and instead focus on a generalist approach of just getting patients in the door. What that means is patients must understand their treatment plans and manage referrals and follow-ups themselves. This is especially true as patient-PCP relationships continue to decline. As Clint details on the Podcast:

I think one of the reasons that the patient is left as the mule [person burdened with responsibility] is that communication is so difficult in healthcare, which is one of the reasons we’ve pursued Direct Health. It is because that communication of a doctor from a primary care to a specialist or a specialist to a specialist is so broken and so impossible that the only person who can [manage their care] is the patient. They really are left carrying this burden by themselves most often.

This can leave patients frustrated since there can be many false starts to treatment. Patients often commit significant energy to scheduling appointments and follow-up tests only to find out that a given facility can’t manage their care. Misdiagnoses are also prevalent, happening in roughly a third of all cases.

Rethinking Healthcare Communication with Inspiration from Other Industries

The breakdown in healthcare communication and the complexity of understanding treatment plans, has made finding alternative models of care more and more imperative. If someone doesn’t remember a doctor’s recommendation or was nervous and forgot to ask a pressing question, how can they get direct follow up from a doctor?

Traditionally, direct access has been nearly impossible with the fee-for-service model of care. But a lot of inspiration for fixing healthcare can be found in adjacent industries that bypass the complexity of the medical system. Clint explains how he has drawn inspiration from lawyers who charge for an hour, half-hour or even tenth of an hour of service based on client’s needs.

Direct Health is taking that system – that until now has not existed in medicine – and allows patients to directly connect with their doctors for additional clarification and communication. As patients are overwhelmingly forced to take control of their care, the need for these types of services continues to expand. Clint explains:

There is a massive shift in healthcare – partly going from fee for service to value-based -and if done properly there can be a huge benefit for doctors. And if done badly they will hate their jobs even worse if they’re not able to easily manage these populations.

Virtual Visits & the Future of Healthcare Communication

In just six years from now – 2024 – doctors will be doing more virtual visits than in-person consults. However, for many doctors this reality still hasn’t set in. They are reluctant to adopt telemedicine because it is outside of their area of comfort. But urgent cares, 24-hour clinics and online doctor services are already cutting into business from traditional practices.

[Doctors] are losing patients every single day already, and they’re going to be losing dozens of patients a day if they are not able to address the changing consumer behavior and if they’re not able to address the changing payer behavior. We feel their burden. The amount of administration a doctor has to do that a lawyer doesn’t is crazy.

The ever-increasing administrative burden tremendously affects job satisfaction-levels among doctors, with over half of doctors saying they feel burnt out. Spending time with patients and building relationships are now harder and harder with growing healthcare inefficiencies.

Some forward-looking doctors have begun searching for alternatives. In the UK and Brazil, these doctors have largely turned to WhatsApp to provide the on-demand services patients are asking for and to strengthen bonds. In the US, doctors looking for alternatives often find themselves using a jumbled mess of email, text, Facebook and phone communication. This need for doctors to regain control over their practices was the motivation behind creating Direct Health:

What if there was a beautiful, seamless communication platform that worked for the doctor, worked for the patient and ensured the doctor had the ability to earn a living and have flexibility.

Breaking down communication barriers between doctors and patient is key in helping patients get the care they need when they need it, while at the same time easing the strain placed on doctors each day. And this is not just in the area of specialized or concierge care. Under-served populations overwhelmingly are coming to benefit by this increase in access to doctors as programs like Medicaid begin to recognize the importance of healthcare communication tools like Direct Health.

About Relentless Health Value

Relentless Health Value is a weekly podcast featuring leaders and disruptors in the healthcare industry. It is hosted by Stacey Richter, co-president of Aventria Health and 20-year veteran in the health care value space.