6. Access (when and how) matters. Providing the estimated 32 million or more currently uninsured individuals with access to health insurance will likely create or exacerbate access issues for medical care. Patients already have difficulty obtaining physician appointments within a desired timeframe in some communities. Given the current shortage of primary care physicians in many markets, access to primary care is likely to be the first to be affected. Only through redesigning care delivery models, implementing electronic visits (e-visits) and other electronic tools such as telemedicine, effectively utilizing a broad array of healthcare practitioners and support staff, and empowering patients to play an active role in their health will an access “meltdown” be avoided. Even today, patients are increasingly expecting ready access (defined by the patient) to their healthcare providers through e-mail, portals, and, when necessary, the face-to–face visit at home. Physicians who cling to the traditional office visit as the only venue for care will risk declining patient preference and limited – hence declining – patient revenue.
7. Patient expectations will continue to rise. A combination of factors will result in an increase in patient expectations for healthcare services:
These factors will result in an increasingly savvy healthcare consumer who expects that their physician is responsive to their expectations. Language in the ACA speaks of rewarding providers who embrace “patient-centric” processes; physicians must take stock of their practice and processes to evaluate how well they are prepared for these expectations.