5 Big Ideas for Physician Groups

Margaret Dick Tocknell, for HealthLeaders Media , November 2, 2011

Last week's Medical Group Management Association conference in Las Vegas featured four days of workshops, networking, and almost 100 sessions devoted to the challenges facing physician groups as they attempt to navigate the business of healthcare reform.

Here is my analysis of the big ideas discussed at MGMA:

  1. The healthcare reform train has left the station.
    If you’re sitting around waiting for the final court decision on healthcare reform before investing in electronic health records or exploring different payment models, then your practice is so far behind that it may never catch up. The feds have been pumping some serious dollars into demonstration projects and other initiatives to help physicians and hospitals develop the infrastructure to compete in the new world of healthcare.

    Even providers that don’t participate in these projects are aligning themselves with other providers and payers to develop healthcare delivery systems and payment models that move patient care from volume to value and focus on higher quality and lower cost care. Through these partnerships, providers and payers are putting processes in place to collaborate, develop clinical engagement, and manage transitions of care. Healthcare has changed and it will not return to the old way of doing business.
  2. The physician-patient relationship is in flux.
    Physicians tend to make many treatment decisions for their patients, but implementing new healthcare delivery systems that emphasize collaboration will require patients to be more engaged in the decisions that affect their medical care. Studies show that, all things being equal, patients tend to select less invasive and less expensive procedures when they have the tools and information to assess the trade-offs of different treatment options. That means the physician or the staff must take time to provide the resources a patient needs to make informed healthcare decisions.

    I predict physician practices will adopt a common practice of pushing decisions and jobs to the lowest level possible. A physician’s time will be reserved for patients who need more intensive care and physician assistants will handle more of the everyday medical cases. E-mail, once health plans agree to reimbursement terms, will play a larger role in patient-physician engagement.

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