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What’s The Best Way to Discuss Value-Based Care with Patients?

Terms like “quality-focused care” resonated more with patients than the term “value-based care.”

There might be a right and a wrong way to discuss value-based care with patients, with new data from advocacy group United States of Care showing that terms like “quality-focused care” are more amenable to patients.

Said otherwise, the concept of value-based care might need a rebrand, at least in terms of patient-provider communication on the matter.

Value-based care has gained more traction in the US healthcare system. In fact, November 2022 data from the Health Care Payment Learning and Action Network (HCP LAN) showed that 59.5 percent of healthcare payments were in some way tied to quality or value. The remaining 40.5 percent were fee-for-service payments.

This latest data from USofC looked at how patients perceive the shift to value-based care and how providers can better discuss the principles of value-based care with patients. Through consumer surveying, the researchers found that most patients like the idea of value-based care—they just don’t want to call it that.

Foremost, the researchers asked patients what they like and don’t like about their healthcare, finding that the pains and positives align with fee-for-service and value-based care, respectively. While patients bemoaned fragmentation, depersonalized care, long wait times, and poor care coordination, they liked the idea of having their providers put them at the center of care.

Survey responses showed that patients want a more humanized healthcare experience, attentive listening from their providers, and treatments that address the root causes of health rather than a list of symptoms—all things that align with value-based care.

Sure enough, when presenting survey respondents with a choice between fee-for-service models and value-based care models, they mostly saw the benefits of having a value-based care model. Moreover, 51 percent said fee-for-service doesn’t work “too well,” and 14 percent said “not well at all.”

Overall, patient respondents said they vastly prefer value-based care by a factor of 4:1.

Even still, after getting a description of value-based care, patient respondents had their doubts.

“They worry that it could cost more if doctors were seeing fewer patients,” Dr. Venice Haynes, USofC director of research and community engagement, said in a webinar about the data. “They worried that a move away from fee-for-service might encourage providers to ignore certain or more complex problems to favor ones that could actually be fixed, and they were also worried about the wait times since they would be spending more time with patients.”

Additionally, patients seemed to associate “value” with something that is discounted or cheap, Haynes explained. While some message-tested survey participants said value-based care made them feel more valued by their provider, others thought the term made the care delivered sound low-quality or cost-saving.

Instead, patient respondents resonated better with the term “quality-focused care” or “patient-first care,” which 89 and 86 approved, respectively.

But it’s not just a verbiage problem, the researchers said. Healthcare providers confronted with patients curious about value-based care but doubtful of its impact should begin discussing the need for value-based care. These types of payment models can be better for patients who need a less standardized approach to medicine, the report authors suggested.

Next, providers can clearly state how value-based care works and the benefits of being in a value-based care model.

Providers may also consider outlining how value-based care emphasizes preventive medicine and allows for personalized medicine that is tailored to patient needs.

It may be unclear how often patients hear about value-based care or how often the payment models might come up in the clinic. However, this data does show the conceptual support patients have for value-based care.

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