As physicians, our commitment to the Hippocratic Oath is to first do no harm. That’s an ever-growing challenge as patient volume increases and face time with each one decreases.
Physicians often find themselves in the difficult situation of effectively communicating important information to their patients in a finite period of time without seeming terse or abrupt.
This challenge is further complicated by an evolving framework of reimbursement that is focused on rewarding doctors for both quality and performance.
The word “performance” has both subjective and objective meanings, depending upon who is evaluating the situation. Under the Affordable Care Act, there’s an independent Advisory Board being established to set clinical practice parameters and guidelines that will serve as the framework for payment to physicians and hospitals.
Under another part of the new law, hospitals already are facing decreased reimbursement – or no reimbursement at all — when patients with congestive heart failure or pneumonia are readmitted within 30 days. Furthermore, this week it was announced that compensation to hospitals will also be based on patient satisfaction surveys.
As a result, many hospitals are now taking measures to implement amenities and luxuries that could help elevate consumer perceptions and, ultimately, reimbursement.
This carries an important message for physicians, as well. Physicians will be held to a higher standard, not only in their adherence to practice guidelines, but also in their ability to demonstrate a proactive stance in measuring patient satisfaction and in facilitating improved consumer education and care coordination.
The pressures on physicians will come not only from hospitals, but also from insurance companies. As insurers are forced to cover individuals with preexisting conditions, they must make changes in order to sustain profitability. They will align the configuration of their physician networks with their financial interests to assure that the care to their members is delivered at the highest quality in the most cost-efficient manner.
So, as physicians look at enhancing practice operations with an electronic medical record, an important consideration will be assuring that the system includes options for effectively communicating with their patients to maximize satisfaction as well as compliance.
Sreedhar Potarazu is an ophthalmologist and founder and CEO of Vital Spring Technologies.