While the trend is clearly toward physician employment by hospitals and health plans, many doctors would prefer to practice independently for as long as possible. So what does it mean to be independent and how can you stay that way?
Physicians today face declining reimbursements, which translates into shrinking profits. In addition, health care reform efforts compel doctors to spend more time on administrative tasks. Add to that uncertainty about the ability of aging practice management systems to cope with requirements and changes from regulators and payers.
Despite these challenges, you may want to practice on your own terms, control your practice’s financial health, have confidence in your ability to thrive under change and make informed strategic decisions, and have the option to compete and grow in the local market.
This dream is not easy, but it is more manageable when these five components are in place:
- Fiscal Strength — This requires practice management systems that can track and submit cost and quality data, collect payments directly from patients, and compensate doctors on the basis of their practice performance.
- Care Coordination — To participate in patient-centered medical homes and accountable care organizations (ACOs), a practice must be able to share information and coordinate care among all parties concerned with a patient’s health status. This may entail operating on the same EHR system as other providers or relying on cloud-based service models.
- Risk Assumption — To operate under risk-based reform initiatives like pay for performance, ACOs, bundled payments and value-based reimbursement, practices must acquire the right tools to track patient outcomes and provider performance, coordinate care, and manage contract payments that vary according to practice performance.
- Competitive Advantage — A hallmark of a strategically successful business is “competitive advantage” — that is, qualities or features of a practice that make it the first choice of patients and referral sources. An example is a highly developed culture of patient engagement that distinguishes the practice from its competitors.
- Embracement of Change — In a health care sector that is marked by constant change, successful practices will adapt fluidly to new payment models, new clinical care models, and new technology demands, all with lower revenues. Practices can accomplish this with flexible, robust practice systems that anticipate these changes.
Final Words of Wisdom
In an era where everything is changing, it is important to lean on your practice management advisor. He or she can help you navigate current changes and anticipate future ones.