Advice for Physicians on Handling the ‘Politics’ in Healthcare.

Below are excerpts taken from my interview in the May 2017 issue of Repertoire Magazine

Healthcare reform is a moving target. Congress and the president had hoped to make a clean break from the past this spring, but were unable to do so.

“We’re going to be living with Obamacare for the foreseeable future,” said Speaker of the House Paul Ryan in late March, following the Republican party’s decision to pull legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act from consideration on the House floor. Meanwhile, the president tweeted, “ObamaCare will explode and we will all get together and piece together a great healthcare plan for THE PEOPLE. Do not worry.”

So where does that leave the rest of us? In the face of uncertainty — either living with Obamacare for the foreseeable future and/or waiting for it to explode — how are providers and their distributors supposed to proceed?

Calmly, suggests Michael Einhorn, CEO, Dealmed Medical Supplies in Brooklyn.

“We’re all trying to speculate,” he says. “Right now, the Republicans control the House; but things will change, and then they will change again. For the foreseeable future, healthcare will be a big item on the national agenda, regardless of who is in control. Adapt. Accept it. Don’t fight it. Don’t get upset. As long as you accept that you have to change, you’ll be all right.”

Among all the challenges facing healthcare providers, perhaps the biggest is their failure to adapt, says Michael Einhorn. By that he means failure to adapt to the rise of consumerism; failure to adapt to new payment models, i.e., MACRA; failure to adapt to technology, e.g., electronic medical records. Take, for example, what is occurring in urgent care.

“Urgent care isn’t higher-quality or better care,” he points out. “But it’s fast, and patients get what they need without hassle or haggling over appointment times. It’s not necessarily about the care, but, ‘I need to get a strep test or flu test, and I don’t want to call up a doctor’s office to see when I can get an appointment.’ This is being driven purely by the consumer. Regardless of healthcare reform, consumerism is going to keep growing, and providers have to have the ability to adapt.”

Example No 2: Referrals. Traditionally, a patient visits his primary care doc, who suggests he see a urologist. The patient consults a phone book or the Internet to see if he can find such a specialist, then phones the office to set up an appointment — but not before learning whether the specialty practice accepts his insurance. Then the patient oversees the cumbersome process of faxing or otherwise transferring his medical records to the new practice. (“Healthcare is the only industry to still use fax,” says Einhorn.)

“Consumers are saying, I’m not going to deal with this,” he says. Instead, they will go to online services, such as ReferWell, to bypass all the hassles.

“This isn’t about healthcare reform; it’s not a political statement. It’s a matter of consumers saying to their providers, ‘We need these things, and if you can’t offer them, we will give our business to doctors who can.’”

Providers will continue to experience cost pressures regardless of what the feds do, continues Einhorn. The implications for the distributor? “Instead of focusing on how much you can save the practice on a pair of gloves, talk about procedures and services that can add value to the practice,” he says. Talk about point-of-care testing and its ability to help the physician provide better care. (It also ties in with the trend toward consumerism.) Talk about products that will bring more patients through the door, or help the practice comply with MACRA.

“At the end of the day, the smart doctors are the ones who are adapting and doing innovative things,” says Einhorn.

“Distributors have a role to play — to make healthcare as efficient as possible,” he says. “But let’s not try to be geniuses. You can talk about healthcare costs all day long. Yes, they can be lowered, but we have to accept as a society that healthcare is expensive. Someone has to pay for it, somehow.

“Predicting the future is silly. Physicians need to be prepared to adapt, as healthcare will constantly be changing.”

Distributors can help them do so.