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Increase Medicaid Patient Engagement With 3 Simple Steps

Optometrists are in a unique position to provide the first line of preventive care allowing health systems to allocate resources appropriately and deliver high-quality services at lower costs.

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WE ALL KNOW preventive health screenings and regular well-check visits are essential for catching early signs of illness and helping patients maintain good overall health. However, the social determinants of health that lower-income patients, such as Medicaid beneficiaries, face often make it difficult for them to attend regular primary care visits.

For Medicaid beneficiaries and others who struggle to get screenings or attend regular appointments, ODs are the first line of preventive care. For one, standard eye exams are very important for vision health. The CDC says more than 60 million adults in the U.S. are at high risk for vision loss. Yet of that population, only 50% have seen an OD in the past year.

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Consistent eyecare can have a profound impact on overall health, as many systemic diseases can be identified through changes in eye health. But an engaged Medicaid population creates a ripple of positive effects that extend beyond the individual. By engaging their Medicaid patients, ODs become better stewards of community health. The value they bring to the community is enormous: In making early treatment of disease possible, they allow health systems to allocate resources appropriately and deliver high-quality services at lower costs.

Below are three ways ODs can improve Medicaid patients’ healthcare outcomes.

1. Educate patients about preventive care. When patients visit you, encourage them to continue scheduling routine health exams. Explain the importance of preventive measures for detecting potential vision problems, high blood pressure, diabetes and other issues.

Many patients don’t attend regular preventive appointments because they’re not showing symptoms. If they learn that many eye problems don’t have early symptoms but can lead to more severe consequences, they may be more likely to change their approach to eye health and, hopefully, healthcare in general.

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2. Consider social determinants of health. As you explain the benefits of preventive care, take social determinants of health into account. Factors such as low health literacy and transportation barriers play an important role in higher risks and poorer outcomes — and might make it more difficult for them to access regular care. Medicaid vision providers can help patients overcome some of these barriers by providing in-office education and clear explanations and directions. For example, written health information should be available in multiple languages and easy for patients to comprehend and digest.

3. Be a role model for staff by learning to engage Medicaid individuals and families. To take a proactive role in Medicaid patients’ healthcare, it is important to develop the skills needed to establish effective patient-provider relationships. Lead by doing, and attend webinars and workshops to gather and disseminate the latest evidence-based practices. Share information with your staff and encourage them to join you as you establish partnerships with community organizations, foundations, or clinics to find local educational resources.

Medicaid patients who don’t engage as often with primary care physicians have much to gain from proactive optometry visits. By practicing Medicaid patient engagement strategies and looking deeper into patients’ whole health and preventive care, ODs can be a key first line of defense for this underserved population.

www.envolvehealth.com

Jill Scullion, OD, MBA is a divisional Vice President of Health Care Services for Envolve Health (envolvehealth.com). Her responsibilities include oversight of clinical policy, member health, utilization management, and quality assurance accreditations.

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