5 min read

Provider Engagement: Objectives, Communication, and Behavioral Science 

By Ava Guleserian

Belong Health was founded on several guiding principles. As a summer intern trying to understand the culture I was working within, I quickly gravitated towards “stay curious and be kind.” This value is central to how we provide care and is exemplified in our provider engagement model. Our care team depends on members’ primary care physicians (PCPs) and there is a tremendous amount of respect within that partnership. To better understand the steps of engagement as well as the objectives, I conducted a Zoom interview with our very own Dr. Jordan Anderson, Belong’s senior vice president of clinical operations. Dr. Anderson develops care programs at Belong and works in care management and delivery. He is also academically affiliated with Vanderbilt University and uses his ongoing clinical expertise to inform his work at Belong. 

Objectives of Provider Engagement 

I first asked Dr. Anderson about Belong’s goal in engaging with providers. He explained that the best practices for provider engagement rely upon communication of both observations and action-planning between the Belong team and PCP. Whether delivering provider engagement on behalf of a D-SNP (Dual Special Needs Plans) or through ACO REACH, the objective of optimized care coordination remains the same. The delivery, however, may differ in accordance with the different tools available to achieve that goal. Provider engagement on behalf of a health plan utilizes resources that the health plan has pre-selected whereas with ACO REACH, providers drive the decision of resource selection. No matter the format, the Belong provider engagement team builds relationships with local PCPs via our provider engagement specialists. 

The goal here is to establish a trusting, two-way relationship where Belong can bring the PCP new, helpful information to best aid and connect with their patients. For example, the specialists will update PCPs regarding new ER visits and hospital stays that may otherwise remain unknown to the PCP. This allows the physician to understand the development of an issue and to remain engaged, rather than being updated much later at an annual wellness checkup. 

Belong provides insight on PCP practice patterns within the context of their peer group patterns, specifically regarding how they manage their patients and pursue care solutions. Through communication between the provider, patient, and the care management team, care becomes more cohesive and maximizes the provider’s resources. 

Provider engagement specialists acknowledge that the provider is actively busy; their goal is to provide more information to the PCP so that a higher level of care can be achieved. Providers frequently struggle to keep the pieces of their care plan coordinated and Belong can step in to help the patient adhere to the care plan and achieve what the physician has set up. That said, a commonly asked question is:

“What is required of physicians in my practice?” 

Ideally, the Belong engagement team meets monthly with each provider, or on a similarly regular basis so that there is a line of continuous communication. This is the opportunity to briefly and frequently update the PCP as mentioned earlier. The Belong team is also available to providers as needed in order to provide effective care. If the team notices that a patient in the PCP’s practice has been readmitted to the hospital, we will communicate this development, explain action items on our end, and suggest scheduling a check-up to prevent further readmissions.  

The greatest challenge in this partnership is simply time. Providers are busy doing amazing work and their schedules are frequently filled to the brim. The Belong provider engagement team is understanding about the time constraints physicians face and is incredibly flexible when working with providers. Communication can also take place via phone, fax, or email. 

Learn more about Behavioral Science from Belong Health's Chief Patient Officer, Dr. Jennie Byrne

The Behavioral Science of It All 

As a summer intern, I have had a lot to learn about Belong’s work, communication with the outside healthcare world, and even concepts like behavioral science. When I sat down to speak with Dr. Anderson through my computer screen, I asked him, “What role does behavioral science play in these lines of communication between provider and specialist?” For context, various departments were recently trained in behavioral science to aid them in their work. Dr. Anderson explained to me that behavioral science is based on the principle that “how humans act, think, and behave are processes that you can understand”. He highlighted actions such as identifying where biases may exist in behavior, how to break a particular behavior down into its smaller component parts, and barriers to certain behaviors.  

For example, providers may have limited time or attention to dedicate to Belong; they work busy schedules and “people can only focus on a limited number of things at a time” (Behavioral Science Playbook for Belong). Therefore, specialists convey updates in a concise and organized manner to avoid cognitive overload. To build trust in the support system that Belong provides, specialists are transparent with providers and upfront about their goals for the relationship. Lastly, providing peer comparisons presents PCPs with a ballpark of their activity in one area compared to peers. For instance, a peer comparison may communicate to a physician that they see x patients for annual wellness visits, and this is higher/lower than peer providers. This may prompt providers to see patients more regularly because they are aware of how they compare to their peer group. 

These are just a few examples of the role that behavioral science plays in providing helpful and timely care and communication through the provider engagement model.  

Providers will experience the full breadth of Belong’s mission through our provider engagement team. Primarily, the model is a resource for providers and their patients to improve access and continuation of care, by people who empathize with the barriers our members and their teams face. 

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