As the country’s healthcare system continues to change, the government has been promoting the managed care system as the best possible model for effective, affordable healthcare delivery. But while a managed care system might be best for government officials, is it really what’s best for consumers?
State and federal regulators want to control the healthcare system as closely as they can, and making all healthcare facilities function according to the same rules is one way to control it as inexpensively as possible. A system where every physician follows the same protocols, and all patient records are centralized, is a way to make a large, sprawling healthcare system become manageable and affordable.
But taking choice away from consumers is very seldom the right answer to any problem in this country. There should be a way to regulate the system without pressuring independent practices to join larger health systems.
The technology is being developed today that will link up the smaller practices with the larger health system, and make all health records centralized. If independent practices use the right technologies, they should be able to remain in business, offer more choice to patients, and become a seamless part of a larger, centralized system while keeping their autonomy.
Advantages of Managed Care
There are reasons why policymakers are lobbying for one system of managed care and one centralized database of patient records. This is the most practical way to deliver healthcare at scale.
The government is under pressure to deliver better care at a lower price, and running a single system where the decisions are made at the top — and then followed by all physicians and administrators below — is a way to cut costs.
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Government agencies simply do not have the resources to regulate hundreds or thousands of smaller clinics that use different IT systems and electronic records that cannot easily integrate with other EHR systems.
This is why the government is looking to bring all healthcare providers under the same umbrella.
Advantages of Independent Providers
While it is easy to see the advantages of a managed care system for the government, we cannot lose sight of what’s best for consumers. More choice is what makes consumers feel empowered.
Many consumers prefer to see independent doctors because they do not like being matched to a physician who they do not know. The managed care system to many patients lacks a personal touch.
Independent providers are often the only source of healthcare for certain communities, and the patients in those areas form bonds with their doctors that are personal, and which grow stronger over time.
These patients don’t want to stop seeing their local provider just because the government finds it easier to regulate a single, centralized system. They want the freedom to choose between larger health networks and their local, independent practice.
How Do We Move Forward?
What is the solution, if the government finds it too difficult to manage smaller practices but doctors and patients alike want to see the survival of smaller clinics?
The answer is to bring technologies to the independent practices that will make them easier for the government to regulate. If independent doctors use health records that are interoperable, and if their practice-management systems link them up to government agencies and larger health networks, many of these problems can vanish.
Smaller practices need a system that helps them function as independent businesses while connecting them to other providers and to the government.
If independent practices use new technologies to streamline their operations and comply with government regulations, they will stand a much better chance of surviving and offering healthcare consumers the choice they deserve.