Healthcare in the US is almost unfathomably complex. Plus, it's always changing, such that it can be very hard to notice trends in any useful way.
However, we are at an especially volatile and important moment in medicine, with the reverberations of the Affordable Care Act still playing out. Just in the past few weeks, I've noticed a few trends that I think every ACO, every hospital, and every medical provider should have their eyes on.
3 shifts in medicine that will probably impact you in the next year:
- Insurers will be demanding "more" from providers and hospitals.
On one hand, insurers are squeezed by higher-than-expected costs of the newly insured. Many are now requesting rate increase approval from the government. As the New York Times reports, "The rate requests, from some of the more popular health plans, suggest that insurance markets are still adjusting to shock waves set off by the Affordable Care Act." On the other hand, many insurers are merging, which gives them more leverage over hospitals and providers. The pressure to increase revenue and cut costs, combine with increased power from mergers may well add up to more demands on providers and hospitals.
- Non-traditional care contexts are becoming the norm.
Because of shifts in what is able to be reimbursed under the Affordable Care Act, there are new delivery mechanisms being pioneered. For instance, there is a current boom in diet clinics, due to ACA reimbursement for obesity consultations and treatment. It's likely that as care outside of doctors' offices increases (with other medical providers being the ones actually interfacing with the patient), healthcare collaboration (especially using telemedicine tools) will become more important. Collaboration will need to happen more, and across the spectrum of care, in order for patients not to fall between the cracks.
- Home care is a growing segment of medicine, and we're (mostly) not doing it well.
Data is beginning to suggest that there are more homebound people than ever before, and they're sicker. Plus, there are more caregivers who are older family members and need support themselves. This type of dynamic means that medical providers are responding, and finding ways to provide care at home. For instance, there is a growing group of geriatrics practices that make housecalls. And if those housecalls have to be made by specialists because there is insufficient technology to allow collaboration at a distance, that's going to be unsustainable. If these trends continue, we'll need to find ways for the people providing the home care to be supported by other medical providers, in efficient and effective ways.
For decades, medical providers had the luxury of ignoring macro trends. These days, however, I think that we ignore these dynamics at the peril of ourselves, our practices, and our patients. For us to act with wisdom, sustainabily, and in service of good medicine, we must act with these things in mind.
And really, that is more of a privilege than a burden.
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