Imagine a world where a team of professionals – rather than just one general practitioner or specialist – makes your overall health their priority. Imagine relying on this team for individualized dietary advice, pharmaceutical management, an exercise regimen and more. Right now, your yearly physicals probably are limited to just 30 or 45 minutes, and that includes checking in and checking your vitals. By the time you see your doctor, there’s barely enough time to get your concerns addressed or a medication refilled. No one has checked to see if you are up to date with screening guidelines such as mammograms and colonoscopies. When the visit is over, both you and your physician are frustrated.
This is where value-based health care comes into play, and, in a time when optimal health couldn’t be more critical, it just makes sense.
Dr. Justine DeCastro, a primary care physician with Palmetto Proactive Healthcare in Mount Pleasant, conveyed how much she sees the value-based health care concept resonating with her patients, especially with seniors.
“It’s going back to how primary care used to be,” she explained. “We are here to help our patients navigate the maze of the health care system. That’s our job.”
With value-based health care, providers are incentivized to produce better outcomes for their patients. Say you have been diagnosed with diabetes. Rather than just seeing the doctor who prescribes your insulin, you’ll talk with a dietitian about weight control, a case manager who will advise you on lifestyle changes you should consider and a nurse who consults with you on checking your blood sugar – and you’ll be able to speak with a pharmacist about your medications. The doctor at the helm of all this? That’s your primary care physician, of course.
As Dr. DeCastro put it, “You might be paying more for your health and wellness at first, but you will be paying less in the long run since less problems and issues will arise, decreasing the odds of having to get an unexpected emergent procedure somewhere down the road.”
She explained that providers will have the time to communicate with each other about your care: “There isn’t any more worry about what medications one of us is prescribing that could interfere with your treatments. We would communicate on that front with each other. It’s like we are working together rather than against each other.”
No more wondering either about your medical records being sent to the other doctors you see: “We can all track your progress with electronic medical records that we all share access to.”
This quality of care doesn’t just benefit patients. According to Dr. DeCastro, it adds to the quality of life for doctors as well.
“Specialists are finally able to do what they are meant to do,” she said.
With more positive outcomes, specialists are freed up to see their patients who need them the most. It would be easier to get appointments with specialists, because they wouldn’t be as bogged down with as many patients all at once.
“I think that with the positive outcomes and with our schedules not being as crazy, it would definitely add to a doctor’s quality of life. Before value-based health care, I was seeing double the amount of patients I see now in a day. It’s difficult to give optimal care in situations like that.”
She explained that with value-based health care, primary care doctors have the time for critical thinking, and they can review literature on likely diagnoses and treatments, leaving the most critical scenarios to the specialists.
And then there is the issue with recruiting doctors. Dr. DeCastro said value-based health care helps with that as well.
“We’ve all heard of the shortage of people wanting to go into primary care,” she explained. “That’s real. We need more primary care doctors, especially as the senior population increases. I think with value-based health care being incentivized to have patients with more positive outcomes, it is helping with recruitment.”
She added, “Everyone worries about the cost of health care. We all hold our breath as we open invoices or wait at the pharmacy for that mystery co-pay. But change is on the horizon. We are seeing those first steps in ensuring patients receive quality health care. They want that relationship with a care team. Patients shouldn’t have to pay extra for better access and more time. We are finally seeing a new paradigm for our broken health care system as coverage increases for the most common chronic diseases that plague our country, like heart disease, hypertension, diabetes and obesity. You shouldn’t have to Google your symptoms to figure out what’s wrong with you. That’s our job.”
Let’s not forget about the telehealth aspect of all this. Sure, COVID accelerated the use of telehealth, but, in Dr. DeCastro’s opinion, “you can tell a lot from a telehealth visit.” She said she would rather have a telehealth visit with patients than nothing at all.
“We’ve come a long way. I think it’s great to use in many circumstances,” she pointed out, adding that she is enthusiastic about the future of telehealth in terms of patient monitoring. “I’m happy people are embracing it. It will only improve, and I think the next generation will use it even more. It’s actually pretty exciting.”
The idea of value-based health care, with the primary care doctor at the helm of a team approach, could be the future of health care. It is not a quick solution or a change you will see overnight, but, over time, with less overall chronic illness, health care costs will inevitably go down.
“We need to go back to the primary care doctor being the gatekeeper. It is time to stop doing what we can to just get by. We are already living longer. Let’s make those years good years – the best years yet by getting the best health care,” Dr. DeCastro said.
For more information on Palmetto Proactive Healthcare in Mount Pleasant or to reach out to Dr. DeCastro, visit palmettoproactive.com/location/mt-pleasant-south-carolina.
By Theresa Stratford