Fee-for-Service Model Can’t Save the Independent Doctor
Independent medical practices are being squeezed financially as they try to keep up with changing national policies, regulatory and compliance matters and other concerns that larger health systems have more personal and other resources to address.
As they try to stay afloat financially and keep their doors open, independent physicians have been pursuing other avenues to bring in income, including offering concierge medical services, anti-aging therapies, weight loss help and other programs on a fee-for-service basis.
The fact that consumers are using these services shows there is market demand for the independent doctor, and for care that comes from outside the managed care system.
While it is understandable that independent physicians are looking for new revenue streams, it is unlikely that these fee-for-service programs will be enough. Unless they begin using hands-on management systems that help them connect to larger health systems and reduce inefficiencies, independent practices will continue to struggle.
Maintaining the proper certifications, showing that a practice is complying with state and federal regulations and employing new technologies as the government requires — these are expensive propositions for independent practices, which do not have entire divisions of employees devoted to these matters the way that managed care systems do.
It’s little wonder that a growing number of these practices are going out of business, and the physicians who run them are taking new positions in the managed care system.
But the disappearance of the independent practice is bad news for the country’s healthcare system, as it removes the best source of care for many citizens who live in urban or other underserved areas. It also removes choice for the consumer, which is always a step in the wrong direction.
Independent practices should not be forced to make ends meet by offering extra services for cash payment. They should not be put in such a position.
The independent physician should be thriving today, and the private practice should be a job creator. This is something that can happen, but it will require a change of thinking when it comes to what technologies to use to manage and run the practice.
Many medical practices have turned to software-only approaches to practice management, because the market is filled with SaaS-based solutions. But the challenges that healthcare providers face are so complex, software alone can never solve every problem.
Larger health systems combine software programs with trained consultants, who use human judgment to solve problems.
This is the approach that independent practices need to use as well, but an approach that combines human expertise and advanced software has always been financially out of reach.
It’s time for a management system that is hands-on, and does not try to use software to solve the many and complex problems that providers face. It’s time for independent doctors to combine people and software the way the larger systems do.
If we are able to use people and technology together — and at a price point that is within reach for smaller practices — then the independent physician can stay in business, thrive and create jobs in the communities they serve.
Read more stories by Dr. Adam Tabriz here.