November 14, 2012 | By Debra Beaulieu
The re-election of President Barack Obama means that, despite lingering challenges, the Affordable Care Act will proceed. Healthcare insiders predict that it will affect your practice on a daily basis–and quickly. Here are just a few of the changes you can expect:
1. An increased reliance on nonphysician providers
While the push toward accountable care has already led to a 21 percent increase in new positions for nurse practitioners (NP) and 13 percent more new physician assistant (PA) jobs, a shortfall of up to 52,000 primary care physicians by 2025, as predicted by a new study in the Annals of Family Medicine, will push demand even further, noted Physicians Practice. Hiring these professionals will get more difficult as more organizations scoop up the supply, the article noted.
But bringing more help on board post-ACA may be critical to stemming the already growing problem of physician burnout, Tricia Pattee, director of product management at HealtheCareers Network, told Physicians Practice.
“I think anything that revolves around training and getting more of a team environment in the facility is key so that responsibilities can be shared and we don’t see people leaving the field all together because they can’t handle the stress or the workload,” she said.
2. Even more momentum toward consolidation
While the number of major mergers and acquisitions involving physician groups dipped in the third quarter of 2012, analysts say the trend is already regaining steam.
“Hospitals and health systems now are hiring individuals with investment banking backgrounds to be instrumental in mergers and acquisitions,” Sanjay Saxena, a partner in the North American health practice at Booz & Company, which researches merger and acquisition trends, toldAmerican Medical News. “This topic is very much on everyone’s minds. And if there is a physician group [a hospital or health system] has been eyeing, there’s little reason to wait.”
However, as attendees at this year’s Medical Group Management Association conference revealed, many practices are confident that they can stay independent by exploring alternative organizational models and maintaining focus on providing excellent patient care.
3. Higher stakes for changing patient behavior
The days in which physicians can give patients advice and say, “Take it or leave it,” will end in the ACA era, as quality metrics and outcomes will directly affect physicians’ compensation. Even though the stakes are higher, parts of the legislation could actually make the problem of patient noncompliance worse, James W. Saxton, a malpractice attorney with Stevens & Lee, based in Lancaster, Penn., toldMedscape Today.
“We’ll probably see more noncompliance because there will be greater access to screening and baseline testing, and the movement to preventive services. Because more services are available, noncompliance will probably grow.” Saxton added, “To bend the cost curve, we can’t do it without patient cooperation.”
How to do so, however, is less certain. Do practices need to become more involved in “mothering” patients to take care of themselves, or can physicians do a better job motivating patients through stronger communication?
There’s growing evidence that strategic use of technology, such as mobile health apps and Web-based communication, can help foster patient engagement, but getting patients truly on board with their health will likely take a personalized, multi-pronged approach.
Has your practice developed a plan to meet these challenges? Now that health reform is a clearer reality, how has your strategic plan for your practice evolved? I look forward to hearing your thoughts. – Deb