How to Integrate Primary Care into Community-Based Health Centers

The unexpected arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic last year sent most people into a frenzy. Businesses and individuals alike became unable to perform their daily errands or jobs as planned. However, the need for community-based healthcare grew exponentially.

Community-based healthcare isn’t a new concept—it’s been around for a long time. But just like telehealth, it’s no longer limited to a portion of a demographic. The demand for home visits increased by around 50 percent, making it essential for private practices and clinics to meet the demand.

Primary Care vs. Community-Based Healthcare

Primary care is the traditional form of healthcare services. The primary care provider is responsible for establishing the first contact with the patient and setting up a treatment plan or scheduling regular checkups.

Community-based healthcare, on the other hand, is often used in delicate situations or with high-risk patients, such as the elderly and immunocompromised individuals. The care provider goes to the patient’s home and performs anything from a medical examination and diagnosis to assisting with taking prescription drugs or medication.

The Benefits of a Hybrid Care System

Your healthcare facility should offer both forms of care. After all, you’re serving diverse communities with varying needs. Creating a hybrid system where you offer both primary healthcare services and community-based healthcare services has many benefits to your clinic, including:

  • Convenience– It’s much more convenient for your patients to find the type of healthcare they need with you instead of seeking help elsewhere.
  • Patient Follow-Up– With community-based care alongside primary care, you can regularly follow-up with patients, ensure they’re following their healthcare plan, and aren’t experiencing serious side effects.
  • Inclusivity– With a hybrid system, you can accommodate both healthy, able-bodied individuals and at-risk groups such as the mentally and physically disabled, the elderly, and the immunocompromised.
  • A Sense of Community– Community-based healthcare ensures the people who need it that they’re welcome within the community, leading them to trust you as a healthcare provider.
  • In-depth Visits– In-office visits are often restricted in both geographical location and time. Community-based healthcare visits are more flexible. They allow you and your patient more time and comfort to discuss their condition and find a suitable treatment plan.

Integration Tips

Still, community-based healthcare differs from primary care. To establish a successful combination, you need to properly integrate community-based healthcare services into your clinic or private practice before offering them to patients.

  1. Make a Plan

You first need to figure out the logistics of the integration. If you already have a clinic where you see patients, how will you make room for home visits? You can close the office for set days every week to perform home visits.

Alternatively, you can hire physicians strictly for providing community-based care. You also need to set criteria for who can request home visits and how you’ll charge them based on requirements and distance.

  1. Billing Organization

It’s essential for billing or reception staff to manage and organize information properly. Do you collect billing information over the phone or the internet, or do you take a version of your management system on a portable device? Maybe you schedule a second in-person visit to take in their information.

  1. Software

If you already have a physical clinic where you see patients, chances are you already have a patient management system and Electronic Health Record (EHR) software you’re familiar with. Even if you don’t have an office, you still need those systems to manage your home visits and stay organized. They can help you file insurance claims, automate credit balances and account receivables, organize patient records electronically, and schedule home visits, all from a lightweight, portable device such as a tablet or a laptop.

If you’re new to using these computer systems for your clinic or home visits, you may require assistance from consultants specializing in NextGen EMR software for healthcare facilities. They can set you on the right track, providing the technical support, integration, and training you might need.

Taking Advantage of Opportunities

As a clinic or private practice owner, your main concern should be providing adequate healthcare to the people who need it the most in your community. While providing primary care is essential, you also need to consider people who can’t regularly travel the distance to your physical office. 

Now, more than ever, people rely on community-based care to meet their healthcare needs without compromising their health by leaving their homes, making it a great time to introduce home visits into your practice.