When well visits were first covered by most insurers, as well as through federal programs, health experts envisioned a clear path toward building healthier populations as patients would be motivated to take a more proactive approach to their health. However, removing or subsidizing the cost wasn’t the only barrier standing in the way of well-visit adoption. Hospitals and health systems quickly learned the barriers that keep people from following through on well visits were as diverse as the individuals themselves.
These barriers still exist, and they keep health systems and payers from bringing more consumers into the healthcare ecosystem. You have an opportunity to increase consumer acquisition by overcoming these barriers and moving more people to schedule and show up for their well visits.
This requires a deft mix of the right communications at the right time, combined with the right in-person care, that sets the stage for a more comprehensive healthcare journey
Anatomy of a Well Visit
Well visits are designed to be a critical piece of preventive care and can facilitate early detection of potential health issues. A well-woman visit for women’s healthcare can include a blood pressure check, a clinical breast exam and a pelvic exam, and an opportunity to talk about broad health areas like mental health or immunizations. Another type of annual well visit is for seniors. Those with Medicare Part B insurance for longer than 12 months receive a yearly wellness visit. These annual visits are encouraged to “develop or update a personalized prevention plan to help prevent disease and disability, based on your current health and risk factors.”
Still, there is a lot of confusion around well visits or wellness exams; many see these as the same or similar to annual checkups or physicals. An annual physical involves additional lab tests and bloodwork and its primary purpose is to look for health problems. Wellness visits are an important middle building block in a patient’s health journey, and they move patients to better engage with their primary care physician. Well visits also help to identify gaps in care and improve care quality. Think proactive, preventive and holistic rather than reactive and episodic.
The challenge is: how do you communicate the value of well visits in general, and the comprehensive expertise of your organization specifically, to potential patients as a way to increase your overall volume?
Why Aren’t People Scheduling Well Visits?
From lack of transportation to fear of what the visit might indicate in terms of their health outcomes, the reasons why well visits aren’t being used as the effective tool for disease prevention and management they could be are widespread.
“[…] if you get your results, you’re scared and you’re panicking, so that’s probably why a lot of people don’t want to go to the doctor. They’re scared of the results,” says a study participant from the Well-Woman Project. The pandemic has a further chilling effect on patients scheduling their well visits, and uncertainty lingers with regard to hospital capacity for routine care. Dr. Mary Rosser, director of Integrated Women’s Health at Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York, is particularly concerned about women putting off mammograms. “Women have been so focused on their families… and their own careers and jobs they’ve been taking care of during this pandemic. It’s really time to say, OK, please don’t forget to focus on yourself.”
Significantly, members of some groups may be less comfortable in a typical healthcare setting. Past experiences with discrimination, disrespect, or outright mistreatment in a healthcare setting can lead many to avoid well visits.
Your organization must take into account all of these factors when communicating with potential new patients about well visits. It is only by considering the holistic behavioral factors that impact decision-making that you can effectively increase acquisition and drive higher patient volumes via well visits.
The Importance of Self-Care
While the pandemic may have delayed well visits, it did demonstrate the importance of self-care. Clinicians urged those coping with the isolation and anxiety of living through the pandemic to prioritize self-care. It’s also a two-way street; those on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic must practice the same self-care they’re urging on their patients.
A well visit lays the groundwork for strengthening the relationship between patient and primary care physician, and helps the PCP see the patient as a person and not a set of conditions or risk factors. It encourages the PCP to be fully present, attentive to and interested in the patient. As one physician observed, “(it’s about) finding the patient’s hidden agenda and listening to what the patient is actually saying.”
Out of this more collaborative relationship, the patient is empowered to take responsibility for their health. Using the well visit to express their concerns, push for clarification when they don’t understand a recommended treatment or description of their health status, cooperate with agreed-upon treatment plans, schedule and attend recommended screenings, etc. helps both patient and PCP get the most out of the appointment.
Use Lirio’s Precision Nudging™ to Encourage Well Visits
Overcoming the barriers to well visits, and leveraging the renewed focus on self-care, requires effective communication to position the visits as part of a personalized disease and disability prevention plan. Lirio supports these efforts by harnessing Precision Nudging to assemble and deliver hyper-personalized interventions matched to each person within a population at the right time.
We launched a women’s well visit intervention for Rochester Regional Medical Center (RRH) that we co-developed with their team to encourage more women to leverage well visits, as one-third (1/3) of all women aged 18-44 do not follow recommended well visit schedules and 40% of women are not aware that they are eligible for well visits at no cost under the ACA. The deployment with RRH focused exclusively on women’s well visits and was designed as a clinical trial that Lirio submitted for Independent Review Board (IRB) approval.
“Rochester Regional Health is proud to partner with the communities we serve to support and empower women in proactively managing their health” said Meghan Aldrich, DNP, Vice President of Women’s Health. “Lirio’s Well Visit solution allows us to reach a larger population with personalized messaging and drive better health outcomes for women in our community.”
Lirio has a proven track record for boosting patient engagement with well visits. In a single quarter, one client scheduled 191 more women’s wellness appointments as a result of Lirio’s tailored behavioral interventions. An effort to improve patient engagement with scheduling mammograms for another Lirio client also generated positive results, especially among high-risk, high-cost patients.
Whether it’s telehealth visits or using Precision Nudging in patient communications, digital efforts enhance the PCP/patient relationship. Changing people’s behavior through an intentional, behavior science-informed AI like Lirio’s helps knit together the digital elements of healthcare with the physical well visit into a cohesive whole.
Learn More from Lirio
If you’d like to learn more about how Lirio can help your healthcare organization respond to these and other patient engagement and communication challenges, contact our team.
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