Although data and EMRs have been a source of frustration for doctors, Direct Primary Care physicians are re-thinking how they use data, and finding that it can be an asset to both their patients and their business. 

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Health Data in Direct Primary Care: A Fresh Perspective

Doctors consistently list EMRs and charting as a source of frustration: that the hours spent  checking boxes on electronic health records, while good intentioned, reduces the time available for patients and leaves doctors feeling like clerical workers instead of healers. 

But physician experiences have been shaped by the demands of the insurance companies and hospital admins, and their demands don't matter in DPC. This frees DPC doctors to re-think their relationship to patient data collection and EMRs.

Dr. Allison Edwards (@Dr_A_Edwards), a DPC physician who has found success balancing purposeful data/metrics and quality patient care, suggests a new way of viewing data.

We measure data for our patients and for ourselves and for nobody else.

So, What Should We Measure?

DPC doctors are finding that two different types of measurements — business-oriented metrics and patient-oriented metrics — are providing valuable insight into their own practices and can be used as a springboard for future success.

Business-Oriented Metrics for Both Doctors and Patients

Business-oriented metrics are important because DPC practices care about keeping the doors open like any other business. Recording and analyzing data such as monthly enrollment, growth trajectories, reasons for cancelling subscriptions, and the lifetime value of each patient in comparison to industry standards can help DPC doctors determine the effectiveness of their practice.

Ask yourself these simple questions:

  • Do your patients come back?
  • Are you getting new patients?
  • Do your patients consider a monthly payment “worth it”?

Business-oriented data, although it might seem revenue-focused, ultimately affects patients because “if you can’t keep your doors open, [...] you can’t help anyone.”

Patient-Oriented Metrics for a Thriving Practice

Put simply, patient-oriented metrics ensure the clinician's focus on the patient’s path to health and preventing hospitalizations, ER visits, and urgent care visits. Repeated measurements of data related to health risk factors, wellness check results, bloodwork and toxicology reports, and the recording of chronic and new symptoms help clinicians track a patient’s “story” with all of its nuances.

One effective patient-oriented measure, PCPCM (Person-Centered Primary Care Measure), has been adopted by some direct primary care organizations. PCPCM essentially asks the patient “Are we doing a good job?” Patients evaluate the care they receive so that DPC doctors can assess their own effectiveness.

Bonus: Using Health Data to Make the Case for DPC

Dr. Joel Bessmer, an internist and founder of Strada Healthcare, also emphasizes the importance of both business-oriented and patient-oriented metrics, specifically when it comes to contracting with employers.

Bessmer’s goal is to use data to prove to employers what DPC doctors already know they’re accomplishing day-to-day in their clinics.

“Data is important because that’s what employers want to see,” and even though they may be hesitant to step into the unknown world of DPC, data can help them see the benefits that the patient will enjoy, financially, physically, and emotionally (Dr. Joel Bessmer, “Prove it or Lose it: Defining Outcomes the DPC Way").

Dr. Bessmer insists that one year of empirical data is much more powerful than a sales pitch made by a proponent of DPC. He asserts that when DPC doctors collect enough data that proves the legitimacy of this concept, “we’ll notice brokers and insurance companies writing their policies around us.”

DPC Data: 5 Takeaways

  • Data and metrics shouldn’t be punitive, but instead should help clinicians measure their effectiveness in helping patients.
  • Data shouldn’t be used to appease insurance companies or “for data’s sake,” but rather should be used for the betterment of doctors and patients.
  • Business-oriented metrics help DPC clinics stay effective, thereby “keeping the doors open” to help more and more patients.
  • Patient-oriented metrics, although difficult to measure in many cases, can be the key to better health outcomes for each unique patient.
  • Purposeful data collection can help DPC clinics make the case for inclusion as an employer-sponsored benefit.

Data and metrics can be a valuable resource for both your practice and for those you serve. When recorded and measured with these outcomes in mind, health data becomes powerful proof that DPC is paving the way for a new perspective on healthcare. Learn how Hint can help you build your DPC practice with data-driven insights.