The Importance of Primary Care Access for Large Organizations

A major challenge facing organizations and their people is the lack of access to quality healthcare. A 2022 study by AMN Healthcare/Merritt Hawkins found an average wait time of 26 days for a primary care appointment across 15 large metro areas. Provider shortages and healthcare deserts, long commute times, and a lack of digital access combine to make healthcare seem out of reach for many.

In this blog, we’ll talk about how large organizations can play a key role in solving these problems while at the same time reaping the benefits for themselves and their populations. We’ll cover three types of large organizations: Employers, Health Plans, and Unions.

Why Primary Care Access Matters

Everyone puts off experiences that are stressful and cause headaches. Healthcare is no different. The traditional primary care model incentivizes providers to deliver a high volume of short visits that often leave needs unaddressed. On top of this, delays in care brought on by the pandemic, a growing provider shortage, and long wait times to get an appointment cause patients to put off preventive screenings or treatment for minor issues that could worsen if left unaddressed. This could mean avoidable visits to urgent care centers, emergency rooms, or even hospital stays.

In a direct healthcare model, increasing access to primary care providers is the number one priority. Patients have more face-to-face time with their provider, less time spent in the waiting room, and next- or same-day appointments to address what ails them. Plus, digital and in-person access points remove barriers that plague community healthcare.

Whether your insured population is comprised of employees and their dependents, union members, or health plan subscribers, greater access to quality primary care in a convenient way is what matters most. When seeing a doctor is easy, people stay on top of their health, see better outcomes, and avoid serious and costly healthcare services. 

What does this look like in practice?

A mother wakes in the middle of the night to her child, who has asthma, wheezing slightly. As a Premise Health member, she’s able to connect with a 24/7 virtual visit to see a provider quickly. The child is evaluated and has mild-to-moderate asthma exacerbation but is at a low-risk for emergency. The provider recommends using the child’s rescue and steroid inhalers and visiting their local Premise wellness center in the morning. The follow-up visit in the morning confirms the diagnosis and ensures the child has the necessary medications. Access to direct primary care, particularly a 24/7 virtual solution, allowed the member to avoid a costly emergency room visit and begin a course of treatment quickly, even in the middle of the night.

Benefits for Employers

Large employers are constantly challenged by headwinds in the marketplace, economy, and workforce. Your employees struggling with their healthcare doesn’t have to be one that you face. Direct primary care can help you:

Combat rising medical costs

There are many reasons healthcare-related costs are increasing. While things like inflation can’t be helped, that doesn’t mean offsetting your medical spend is hopeless. Seeing a primary care provider is a critical first step in the reduction of downstream costs and hospital admissions, which is key to delivering financial results. Improving access to healthcare creates a healthier workforce, which means higher productivity and less time away due to sickness.

Build a strong workplace culture

Culture building is likely high on your list of priorities from year to year. A positive culture is foundational to driving success for employers. Building a culture of wellbeing is easier when you provide employees and their families with tangible resources to support it. A direct primary care benefit says, “we care for you” or “you belong here” and truly means something, fostering a sense of belonging and commitment.

Support recruiting and retention

In a competitive job market and after years of high turnover rates and disruption, employers need every tool they can get to be competitive when it comes to talent management and acquisition. A high-value benefit such as employer-sponsored healthcare can make it easier to attract and retain top talent. Low turnover can aid in culture building as employees have a chance to buy-in to an organization and increases the depth of organizational knowledge in your workforce over time.

What does this look like in practice?

A large employer’s workforce dispersed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now they are looking for ways to bring employees back to campus a few days a week. While researching ways to incentivize employees to return, they identify an onsite primary care center as a top option. The prospect of quick visits and easy experiences draws employees back to the office and helps build a culture of wellness. Beyond return to office initiatives, the health center will help them prepare to lower costs as they expect double-digit premium increases in the next few years.

Benefits for Health Plans

Payers play a key role in helping their subscriber populations access quality healthcare by packaging a primary care solution alongside certain plans. This solution, delivered in partnership with a direct healthcare provider, gives their subscribers access to high quality, convenient healthcare in their community. It also benefits health plans by creating a competitive advantage in several ways:

Lowers total cost of care

Increasing cost of care is a top concern for payers, with chronic conditions being one of the primary drivers of healthcare spending. By preventing and effectively treating chronic conditions or acute care needs, higher utilization of primary care can help payers avoid unnecessary medical claims. Going further, an advanced primary care solution that features a team-based approach and whole-person care is key to getting people as healthy as they can be.

Improve subscriber experiences

For many reasons, it can be hard for health plans to engage their subscribers. Poor experiences with previous plans or even the busyness of the day can make it hard to reach your populations. But the prospect of headache-free healthcare and a provider that gets to know you can be the breakthrough they need to start engaging with their health. When primary care providers have the time to build relationships with your subscribers, they can have a profound impact on their healthcare experience.

Ensure access to providers

Many health plans are struggling to counteract the effects of a growing provider shortage and the existence of provider deserts. Having a partner guarantee provider availability amidst these challenges helps ensure your subscribers can see the doctor when they need it. Your direct primary care partner should support access to providers through local and nationwide models and provider recruitment and retention strategies.

What does this look like in practice?

A health plan evaluates their subscriber population costs and realizes that their subscribers have rapidly increasing claims costs. Further research shows a rapidly increasing provider shortage in rural areas and long wait times for appointments in urban locations. The health plan partners with a direct healthcare provider to build a tailored solution with the flexibility to address the needs of both rural and urban subscribers. Strategically placed locations combined with virtual care models and sufficient staffing allow subscribers to easily access primary care helping to reduce costs, improve their experience, and even improve their opinion of their health plan.

Benefits for Unions

Increasing access to direct primary care can be a valuable benefit for Taft-Hartley funds and unions, and the impact of which is felt in several ways:

Members have easy-to-access affordable healthcare

A direct healthcare partner can be a one-stop location for preventive and acute primary care needs without high costs. Members can engage with services like pharmacy, physical therapy, or behavioral health. Through these solutions, unions can help their members, including seasonal, contract, and part-time workers, have access to high-quality care that they can afford year-round.

It’s tailored to your members’ needs

Direct primary care can be tailored to your population to include convenient locations, expanded hours to match your worker’s needs, or even 24/7 digital care options. Multiple types of care can be packaged based on your population’s needs, ensuring the care they need is there when they need it. Direct healthcare is relevant for your members, and relevance brings value.

Integrated healthcare encourages use of all forms of care

Having multiple forms of healthcare (primary care, behavioral health, pharmacy, and more) integrated into one location allows members to get whatever care they need in one place. It reduces the stigma around visiting certain providers and members won’t have to worry about what to say if they run into a coworker in the waiting room. Warm handoffs between providers also help introduce members to more types of care, right under one roof.

What does this look like in practice?

A union member in a manufacturing plant works an overnight shift from Monday to Friday. He’s historically had trouble scheduling primary care appointments that didn’t cut into the all-too-brief time with family between work and sleep. During a biometric screening event at work, his blood pressure is high and he’s directed to follow up with his primary care provider. With easy access to a direct primary care wellness center through his union, he’s able to take advantage of extended hours and short wait times to see his provider quickly and conveniently on the way home from work then get home to his family. 

No matter the organization or what your population looks like, providing your people with easy access to primary care can solve some of the biggest challenges you face today: rising costs, ineffective healthcare, and poor experiences. Learn more about how care is delivered at Premise Health and what it could do for your bottom line.

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