Healthcare Reform: Get Ready for the Crush!

Against what seemed to be insurmountable odds, President Obama has signed a healthcare reform bill. While the full impact of the bill won’t be known for a while, two things are already clear about this legislation’s effect on physicians. There will be a sharp increase in demand for their services, and they will get paid less for the services they provide—making physician productivity vital.

By 2014, all Americans will be required to have health insurance. A whopping 32 million people will be added to the rolls of private health insurance plans over the next few years with the help of government premium subsidies. Because these people have not had health insurance in the past and many have medical problems for which they have not received treatment, they can be expected to seek care in greater-than-average numbers. Compounding this demand will be the seismic shift in demographics caused by the aging of the 79 million baby boomers, the first of whom turn 65 next year. Their naturally increasing demands for medical care will further stress our healthcare delivery system. Given the current, and growing, physician shortage, physicians will be deluged with patients.

With a projected cost of $938 billion, much of the funding for the legislation will come from cuts to Medicare, which will include payment reform—a euphemism for reduced payments for the services provided by physicians.

Physician productivity has always been important, but the healthcare reform legislation has made it critical. To meet the crush of demand for care, and to grow—or even maintain—their current incomes, physicians will have to see a greater number of patients and do so more efficiently. Now—more than ever—it is important for physicians to invest in software that is physician focused and designed with physicians’ workflows in mind, to ensure that it will increase, rather than decrease, their productivity.

Reminder: to find out what your time is worth, try the physician productivity calculator.

3 thoughts on “Healthcare Reform: Get Ready for the Crush!

  1. Many of the newly insured are not unhealthy, so I’m not sure the “crush” will materialize as fully as expected, especially when waits are long and inconvenient. I see no need to ramp up physician productivity in response. The only solution now is to change the payer mix away from anything and anyone with a third-party policy that requires direct physician contracting…ie go to cash.

  2. I hardly think this will be a “boon” for physicians.
    Especially in Primary Care. Who would bother to see
    patients where the risk of problems is high, the reimbursement is poor (and may be even less than the cost of providing their care). It will overload the Hospitals and other low end clinics. Being paid at Medicaid rates (even if they increase towards Medicare rates, which will further decrease). It certainly will not encourage Medical students to enter into Primary Care and Family Medicine.

    Alan T Falkoff, MD, DABFM, FAAFP

  3. You’re right. Choosing the right EMR will be very important because many of the larger companies out there have made systems that actually make the physician change their workflow to accomodate the software. That means implementation will take longer, be more frustrating, and revenue will drop. Not something most of us can afford.

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