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Continuity of Care Is Essential to the Patient Experience

Health professionals reaching out with puzzle pieces

With continuity of care, patients are happier and healthier when providers make them — and their vital data — the center of attention

Far from just another passing trend, continuity of care is an innovative approach to healthcare in which providers and patients work collaboratively toward the shared goal of high quality, cost-effective care. Continuity of care means putting the focus on an individual patient and ensuring the quality of treatment they receive does not deviate over time. 

Another qualifier for continuity of care is when the distinct healthcare events patients experience are coherent and consistent with their overall medical needs. Electronic medical records (EMRs) play a significant role in ensuring this consistency because providers rely on them to paint a full picture of patient histories, test results and other changes in their health. But when out-of-network providers go through administrative hurdles to obtain EMRs, it can compromise continuity of care – jeopardizing patients and causing friction in their journeys. 

There are three types of continuity that are present in all healthcare settings: Informational, management and relational. 

Informational continuity refers to the manner in which patient data on past events is used to inform current care. In order to keep the focus on patients and prevent them from falling through the cracks, vital data that has been accumulated over time needs to be available to current and future care providers.

Management continuity means taking a consistent and coherent approach to a patient’s health and providing treatment that meets their changing needs. This form of continuity is particularly important when managing chronic or complex diseases that require extensive care over long periods of time. Management continuity provides consistency, flexibility and security to patients when it is most needed and is only achieved when separate healthcare services are successfully delivered in a complementary and timely manner.

Relational continuity refers to the ongoing therapeutic relationship that develops between a patient and one or more providers. It serves as a bridge between past, current and future care and provides a needed sense of predictability to patients, particularly in times of turmoil.

Why is continuity of care important?

Studies have shown that patients who experience continuity of care have better healthcare outcomes and are more satisfied with the treatment they receive. Continuity of care has been found to reduce all-cause mortality, lower the use of hospital care, decrease overall healthcare costs and improve patient adherence to medical advice. 

One systematic review of 22 studies across nine different countries, cultures and healthcare systems found that continuity of care (in this case, seeing the same doctor repeatedly) has literally become “a matter of life and death.” The greater levels of trust fostered by continuity of care were linked with a decreased mortality rate in 82% of the studies reviewed.

The more involved patients are in the decisions that shape their treatment, the better the results and the greater the satisfaction with the process becomes. For providers, continuity of care not only allows for more effective care, it increases efficiency and makes treatment more cost-effective.

What are continuity of care documents?

A continuity of care document (CCD) is an electronic summary of a patient’s clinical information, including their medical history and current condition. Continuity of care documentation is the most common way to share patient information across health information exchanges and the format allows the data to be viewed by multiple computer applications, including web browsers, electronic medical record (EMR) and electronic health record (EHR) software systems.

What are the barriers to continuity of care?

One of the greatest impediments to continuity of care is the siloing of patient information that prevents easy access to the data doctors and other healthcare providers need to treat patients. Historically, this segregation has forced patients to pick up and pay for the results of their medical imaging in CD form and deliver them to their doctor — a resource-intensive exercise that has diminished the ability of providers to offer timely care. 

The inability of patients to access their own information does nothing to increase trust and goodwill between patients and providers and runs counter to continuity of care. In order for patients to truly sit at the center of their own healthcare journeys, their health data needs to move between providers and institutions with the ease with which they do. 

What ensures continuity of care?

The best way to increase continuity of care is to empower patients by allowing them to access and share their own medical data and imaging results from anywhere in the world. 

PocketHealth makes this easy by embracing a patient-centered approach that allows users to view their full imaging reports and share them with other healthcare providers from their phone or computer. In addition to working seamlessly with other EHR platforms, PocketHealth is network agnostic, meaning providers on different networks can use it to enhance continuity of care for their patients.

When patients are freed from the responsibilities of tracking down their own data and are given the ability to access and share this information at any time, they are able to turn their full attention to where it is needed most — on their health.

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PocketHealth is putting hundreds of thousands of patients back in charge of their healthcare journey by giving them easy online access to all their medical imaging and making it a breeze to share this information with doctors and care providers anytime, anywhere. 

Access your own imaging and records by visiting this link.

For providers: Learn how PocketHealth can ensure continuity of care in your healthcare network. Request a demo today.