Doctors Who Want Independence Should be Able to Thrive
When the Affordable Care Act was passed into law, independent physicians said the new policy would be devastating to doctors who want to keep the autonomy that many have to give up if they join managed-care systems.
A lot has happened since the U.S. Congress signed ACA into law seven years ago, but unfortunately, the situation has not improved for doctors in independent practice. Doctors who operate outside of managed-care systems are sometimes in a better position to form meaningful relationships with patients, and their survival means more choice for healthcare consumers. More choice is the what’s right for the healthcare system in general.
A growing number of doctors are giving up independent practice because it simply makes more economic sense to join larger health systems. Larger systems have the staff and resources to cope with massive amounts of administrative work, compliance issues, certificate maintenance and collection of co-pays and deductibles. Smaller, independent clinics and health centers do not have the same resources.
These independent practices should not just be able to thrive in America, they should also be able to be job creators and providers of another option for care among the patient groups that need choice the most. The right kind of practice management system — one that is not just software-based, but also give doctors access to human expertise — will help independent doctors accomplish that goal.
Why Many Doctors Want to Remain Independent
Many physicians are happy to join larger health systems, because they have more staff and resources. But other doctors value the autonomy that comes with private practice. In managed care systems, a small group of administrators at the top make all the decisions and write all the protocols that govern every patient and his or her treatment choices.
Some doctors want to practice without important decisions being made for them by a small group that might be removed from the day-to-day realities of delivering care. To some, having complete autonomy is worth the trade, even if it means facing all the ups and downs that come with running a small business.
Many physicians feel that having that freedom is what enables them to build meaningful relationships with patients. Being randomly matched with patients — which sometimes happens in managed-care settings — is not the way lasting bonds are formed, some independent doctors feel.
Doctors who feel this way should be thriving at least as well as doctors in managed care are thriving. From the patient’s point of view, the survival of independent doctors is important because they represent more options in healthcare, and that’s always a good thing.
Doctors who want their independence should be able to keep it, and putting the right tools in their hands is the way to make that happen.
The physicians who manage their practices with software-only solutions will fall short, and many will have to give up their independence in order to stay in practice.
Doctors who employ a more hands-on system, one that combines interoperable electronic health records and other software with human expertise, will be able to keep the doors of their clinics open. They will be able to form meaningful relationships with patients, and offer more choice for consumers.
Read more stories by Dr. Adam Tabriz here.