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.

ePrescribing—A Great First Step

In contrast to the concerns I have expressed in prior posts about the government’s EHR incentives plan, the Medicare ePrescribing program is an example of the appropriate way to reconcile the goals of the government with the needs and motivations of practicing physicians, on whose participation the success of the program depends.

The ePrescribing program should serve as a model for other government plans. It aligns the interests of all parties, delivering the healthcare-reform benefits the government has targeted—interoperability, sharing of data, cost savings, and improved quality of care through reduction of errors and adverse drug interactions—while simultaneously offering added value to physicians. The latter is the missing link in the proposed EMR incentives program.

With the right ePrescribing software, physicians improve practice workflow by using office staff more efficiently and by writing prescriptions in less time. At the same time, they make better-informed Rx decisions, reduce their malpractice exposure, and eliminate repeat patient calls that tie up staff unnecessarily—patient satisfaction increases.  All of these factors lead to increased revenue and greater opportunities for practice growth. In addition to the benefits that accrue to physicians, pharmacies receive accurate, legible scripts that eliminate the need for clarification calls, and insurance companies see fewer claims for multiple-sourced prescriptions. ePrescribing is a win-win-win program for all parties.

Clearly, ePrescribing is inherently less complicated than adoption of a complete EHR. Unlike dealing with all the complexities and nuances of the human condition and its maladies, prescribing drugs electronically is easy because it deals with a finite set of data that is perfectly suited for a digital solution.