Are Americans satisfied with the quality of healthcare they receive? Are people getting enough time with their doctors, and getting the best possible treatment plan? How happy is the American healthcare consumer?
The question of patient satisfaction has never been as important as it is today. The country is remaking its healthcare delivery system, and the consumer is now in the driver’s seat.
Healthcare providers have been reimbursed for treating certain patients based on the number of patients treated, tests ordered and a fee-for-service billing model. This means patients have not been able to get all the treatments from managed care systems that they might want, because physicians practicing in this setting do not always have the freedom to say yes to the patient.
Managed care systems and independent physicians approach the healthcare consumer differently. Both can be tremendously helpful to the healthcare consumer, and both approaches are necessary if we expect to have a well-functioning healthcare delivery system.
Technology has empowered the consumer over the past couple of decades, with the average consumer today fully expecting to be able to shop, bank and socially network however they want and wherever they are. Any American with a smartphone is carrying more computing power than NASA had in the 1960s when the agency put a man on the moon.
Consumers today want products and services on-demand, optimized for mobile devices or for the desktop. Today’s consumer expects a range of choices, and expects the freedom to choose what they want.
This extends into healthcare as well. Healthcare consumers expect to have a range of choices laid out before them, and they expect to feel that the control over their healthcare lies in their hands.
Unfortunately, if certain trends in healthcare continue — specifically the vanishing of the independent physician in America — then consumers will have fewer choices. We shouldn’t accept that, but rather fight for the preservation of choice.
Here at eHealth Soultions, we conducted an informal social-media poll and found that 70% of respondents prefer to see a doctor in independent practice than one who is part of a managed care system. Many healthcare consumers feel they have a meaningful bond with an independent physician, and feel that that doctor has more autonomy when it comes to setting treatment plans.
The managed care system was developed to separate the business of medicine from the practice of medicine, a move that helps some providers reach massive scale. But it can also create a conflict in the doctor-patient relationship, as treatment plans cannot always be driven by the consumer.
The best option for our healthcare system is to always offer more choice, which means consumers should always have the managed care option along with the independent physician option.
And though independent physicians have been shutting their doors in greater numbers because of mounting cost pressures, better practice management systems offer hope that these doctors can reduce unnecessary costs and stay in business.
The independent physicians who choose a hands-on management system, one that combines software with human expertise, will be able to offer the healthcare consumer the thing they want and deserve the most: more choice.
Read more stories by Dr. Adam Tabriz here.