Health care has evolved dramatically from the avuncular family doctor of the 1950’s. Today’s practices and practitioners have higher levels of skill and more complex management than ever. Yet as much as things have advanced in recent years, it’s clear that there are still more changes ahead.
The most seismic event to impact health care in recent years has been the Affordable Care Act. Its effects are still being created and measured, but three important points seem clear right now.
First, we will see ongoing changes to the documentation of medical care. Periodic changes to ICD codes will be necessary to reflect evolving federal regulations, forcing medical staffs to stay on their toes.
Those clinic and practice support workers will have to communicate with the practitioners about accurate documentation of patient visits, and they will also need to be aware of EMR software updates to ensure compatibility with changing requirements. These updates will also be an essential part of the process of getting accurate insurance payments, Medicare reimbursements, and preauthorization for further treatment.
Second, there will definitely be a higher demand for medical care. People who have skipped doctor visits, especially regular checkups, due to lack of insurance will now have coverage and will be seeking care more frequently. This will create a massive increase in demand for practitioners and is likely to enhance the for additional non-physician practitioners, especially nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants.
The reason for that brings us to our third point. Reimbursement rates from Medicare and Medicaid seem to be such that lowering the cost of providing care will be very important. Consequently, if a PA can see you for a sore throat and fever without incurring the cost of the doctor’s time, economics will likely demand that it be done.
The unanswered question at this time is what will happen to the ACA after the November presidential election. The balance of power in Congress and the occupant of the White House will determine whether any changes are made to the ACA, and if so, how significant they are.
Care will also become more complex and will take place over a longer time frame. As medical research has moved forward, it has provided knowledge that permits treatment of more and more conditions. The treatment processes for these conditions typically takes more time and more interaction with practitioners than was necessary for the problems we’ve treated before.
Consider cancer. Decades ago, a diagnosis was essentially a death sentence for many types of cancer. Because there were no treatments, follow-up care wasn’t necessary. Today, we can use some combination of various treatments including medication, surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation to cure many different forms of the disease at many different stages. The improvement in public health is dramatically higher, but that process is much more complex and longer.
Our ability to create new drugs, design new therapies, and utilize a deeper understanding of the human body has put us in a position where we will see many of our sickest patients recover from their illnesses, but it will take place over a longer time and with more involvement from the medical profession.
The point is that while the future likely holds cures for many conditions once thought irreversible, those cures will also require more time with practitioners and other caregivers, as well as additional pharmaceutical intervention.
Medicine has advanced a long way from the medieval practices of balancing humors and bleeding patients. While we can look day to day and not note any major changes, a look over the longer term reveals that we are advancing dramatically when you consider even a decade’s time.
This continuing change in the medical field will drive our funding, documentation, and patient outcomes. The practitioners and managers who best follow these trends will provide better care and be more durable as a business as well.