Independent Doctors Need the Tools to Adapt to Policy Changes

With the Republicans in the U.S. Congress unable to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Democrats are now renewing their push to institute a single-payer model for reimbursing medical care. Whether this payer would be a government agency or a private enterprise, most doctors just hope the reimbursement for their work is adequate and fair.

Moving to a single-payer system would be disruptive to the country’s healthcare delivery, whoever the payer turns out to be.

A single payer from the private sector would be an unlikely outcome from the debate, as the payer who reimburses all Medicare treatment would likely be deemed to hold a monopoly, which is against the law. An open, competitive market for private payers would require some deregulation of the industry, which could be a major disruption.

Government oversight and subsidies of a single-payer system could require a major reworking of the law, which would likely be costly and take years to approve and implement. Clearly, there is not going to be a simple, painless transition to a new payment model. Any such move will be complex and time-consuming, and will require all healthcare providers to institute yet another round of fundamental changes to the way they operate.

Larger health systems are in a position to lobby for the types of payment-mode changes which might be easiest for them to adapt to. And whatever reforms are eventually passed, the larger networks will be in a better position to implement them.

New policies require physicians in any setting to spend more time on compliance issue, which require extensive administrative work. The larger health systems are well-equipped to change the way they operate in order to comply with new laws.

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Photo by Iñaki del Olmo on Unsplash

But for independent medical practices, policy changes that require more administrative work could be devastating. These smaller practices — which lack the staff and other resources to handle the growing mountains of paperwork — struggle to stay on top of administrative and compliance requirements.

Independent physicians’ voices are already being lost in this debate, as they currently have no way to band together and lobby the way larger health networks do. And whatever policy is eventually passed, they will be in a worse position to overhaul the way they track and demonstrate compliance.

It’s important that independent medical practices are part of the discussion, as they are the primary point of care for millions of Americans who live in underserved rural and urban areas. The survival of independent practices is also important because they offer consumers more choice, which is always a positive thing.

These independent doctors need to be using a hands-on management system that will enable them to quickly adapt to any changes from Washington without adding time and expense for the implementation. Smaller practices are already feeling the squeeze, and need relief from growing cost pressures.

A practice management system that will connect them to other independent providers, to larger health systems and to the government would be a powerful tool to help these independent physicians thrive. And a management system like this — one that employs both software and people — could unify these smaller practices, so that any debate on healthcare reform will include the voices of independent practices.

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