The Minimalist Approach to Healthcare

Minimalism has acquired renewed interest in certain communities, although it is certainly not a new concept. Project 333. Everything That Remains. The Clutter-free Household with Kids. The Minimalist Approach to Parenting. The Joy of Less. The aforementioned books and projects are just a few that have surfaced in the past few years. At its core, minimalism is a philosophy that less is more.

Minimalism is the concept of focusing on the most essential things in order to provide greater fulfillment. In minimalism, excess belongings, distractions, things to do, and time commitments are whittled down to only those providing true value while eliminating things providing mediocre or superficial value. Minimalism encourages critical thinking about what actions and things provide the most meaning and value in life. Since bundled payments and value-based healthcare consume the majority of my thoughts, I started thinking about the connection between the minimalist movement, healthcare, and the change in the approach to patient care we are witnessing across the nation.

Many people adopt certain aspects of minimalism after an experience of total mental exhaustion. With respect to our modern healthcare system, rising costs and ever-changing rules and regulations have left our physicians and healthcare organizations on the brink of a virtual panic attack. With so many bureaucratic demands placed on providers, the rate of burnout among physicians is alarming. Physicians often feel removed from the meaningful reason they entered the field in the first place: to help people.

Erica Leazenby, MD, the owner of Relish Health, LLC, is a great example of one physician who experienced burnout and was motivated to embrace minimalism in healthcare. After years of practice in a busy, multi-specialty, hospital-based health system, Dr. Leazenby was yearning to provide more value to her patients. She refocused her practice of medicine by opening a direct patient care micropractice focused on lifestyle medicine. The practice style allows her to conduct lengthy office visits, incorporate her passion for nutrition, and provide a more holistic model of care. “A journey into understanding minimalism allowed me to think critically about how I can best serve my patients. I was able to identify my talents and passions and translate them into services that benefit the patient and rescued me from burnout,” says Dr. Leazenby.

While Dr. Leazenby was able to save her career from burnout by embracing minimalism through her micropractice, other physicians may implement another form of minimalism by focusing on value over volume. On a national scale, value-based care is beginning to make a positive impact on our healthcare system as a whole, one physician at a time, by incentivizing providers to stop the revolving door of patients. Value-based care puts a halt to the system that rewards the number of patients seen in a day and the number of services billed. Healthcare providers are critically thinking about the value of the services provided prior to delivery. Healthcare providers are asking:

  • What is the value of this service to the patient?
  • Is there a lifestyle intervention that would improve the patient’s overall health, reduce medication and procedure requirements, or improve surgical outcomes?
  • What is the value of the patient staying in the hospital for one more day?
  • Will a home health agency provide better value than sending the patient to a skilled nursing facility?  What option will provide better outcomes?

Further, the value-based approach to healthcare emphasizes the importance of the patient-provider relationship. Post-op care, tests, and labs are ordered if truly needed for the patient and not because the protocol is status quo and insurance pays for it. Physicians are assessing and critically thinking about all aspects of a patient’s health and not just the surgical site. They are less consumed about the number of surgeries performed in a week and more concerned about getting patients to an optimal mental and physical health status before the surgery is even scheduled. With this value-based care approach, we are able to take better care of patients.

Healthcare organizations as a whole are also transitioning to value-based care. They are refocusing their care models to provide the most value to patients while discouraging unnecessary overutilization of healthcare services. Organizations are asking:

  • How can we communicate better as patients move between facilities?
  • Is our case management effective in coordinating care?
  • How can we align with other providers to ensure our value-based goals are met?

Minimalism in healthcare and value-based care go hand in hand as both focus on providing the highest value of services to patients. Effectively this results in improved quality of care, reduced costs, and increased patient satisfaction. Forward thinking physicians and organizations are leading the transition to a more minimalistic approach amidst a chaotic and overwhelming healthcare system.

 

Follow SMGbundles.com for more information or assistance in working with bundled payments and value-based care.

 

 

Betsy Engle