Health Assessments in Primary Care: A How-to Guide

Section 1. How Ready Is Your Practice to Implement a New Health Assessment?

A bar shows the sections of this guide as a series of questions: Section 1: 'Is your practice ready?' is highlighted.

 

How do you know if your practice is ready to start work on implementing a health assessment? Answer the questions below to help identify areas where more preparation is needed.

Table 1: A Checklist to Evaluate Your Practice Readiness

Questions for Your Practice or TeamYesNoWhere to Find Help
in This Guide
Do most clinicians and staff in your practice agree that implementing a health assessment is an important issue?  Section 1 (this section): benefits of implementing health assessments
Is your practice prepared to commit resources to the process of implementing a new health assessment?  Section 2: health assessment selection and resource considerations
Does your practice have an idea of where the health assessment will fit into your practice's current workflow?  Section 3: workflow integration strategies
Does your practice have a plan for how the data from the health assessment will be used once it is collected?  Section 4: approaches to using information with your patients
How will your practice organize its resources (internal and external) to provide care based on the results of the health assessment?  Section 4: approaches to using information with your patients
Has your practice thought about ways to engage your patients in the health assessment process (review of results, prioritization, action plan, etc.)?  Section 5: strategies for engaging patients with health assessment information
Has your practice considered how it will sustain and improve the health assessment?  Section 6: tips for sustaining health assessments

 

If you found yourself marking "No" more often than "Yes", you may need to address those barriers before moving forward on a full health assessment implementation. If the barriers are relatively minor, some education may help. Below are some ideas to help weigh the pros and cons of adopting and implementing a new health assessment.

Benefits of Routine Health Assessment

  • Improve relationships with patients by using the data to stimulate dialogue.
  • Help clinicians identify and prioritize patient health issues and health goals.
  • Help pinpoint focused messages when talking with patients about what matters to their health.
  • Help patients understand their current health status and act to improve their health.
  • Consistently remind patients to increase their awareness about specific behaviors and habits that affect their health or chronic conditions.
  • Track patient health behaviors over time (e.g., physical activity, smoking, stress, or quality of life), which can also help with patient follow-up.
  • Measure and monitor patient data at the practice/population level for proactive, planned care.
  • Identify issues requiring patient referral to additional resources.
  • Fulfill requirements for and generate revenue from incentive programs and national guidelines.
Don't be afraid of the information you are going to start seeing. You will have better insight and probably learn more about your patients, thus building a far better relationship with your patient than you may have thought possible.

- Practice manager, urban private practice, Colorado

 

Challenges of Routine Health Assessments

  • Selecting an instrument that is meaningful, but practicable.
  • Dedicating time and training (including technical assistance if using EHR) required to effectively integrate health assessment into the practice workflow.
  • Accepting the practice work flow interruptions that may occur during the early implementation phase.
  • Identifying a method to analyze and prepare data for easy and expedient use by the health care team.
  • Prioritizing and addressing a patient's identified health risks.
  • Organizing and deploying appropriate staff and resources to intervene on and treat identified health risks.
  • Documenting and coding correctly in order to receive incentives and facilitate appropriate referrals.
There is a balance: You don't want to have to do too much routinely. Right now we have to do a lot of documentation for "meaningful use," which is a burden. I am very sensitive to adding to this burden. Yet, I also can see the importance of having this information for reaching public health goals and collection of data.

- Family physician, suburban private practice, Colorado

Current as of September 2013
Internet Citation: Health Assessments in Primary Care: A How-to Guide: Section 1. How Ready Is Your Practice to Implement a New Health Assessment?. September 2013. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/professionals/prevention-chronic-care/improve/system/health-assessments/health-assessment1.html