Obamacare is changing the image of the doctor we know and love. For better or worse, gone are the days of a physician carrying a black bag and making house calls. The new-age doctor is someone who is probably comfortable communicating via text message (secure, of course), or by email.
With the rising demands of a new dimension of healthcare delivery, where doctors need to see more patients to make up for lower reimbursement, you will soon see some innovative ways by which doctors will be communicating with patients, and still getting paid.
As of last year, about 30% of doctors reported using email to communicate with patients, and about 18% of those surveyed used text messaging.
But there is still a large percentage of physicians who are concerned about privacy and security. This may change, however, as insurance companies may start to reimburse for electronic forms of communication.
In addition to email and text, an increasingly popular means of doctor-patient communication is video conferencing. Many services have evolved that enable physicians to conduct these video chats with their patients quite effectively, and charge for the consultation.
It’s been predicted that more than 50% of doctors will start working for a hospital or a hospital-owned system in the next year. If that happens, there will be increasing attention paid to the measurement of physician efficiency. Physicians will be compensated based on their ability to effectively communicate with patients, and ensure patient compliance.
As employees of hospitals, physicians may actually start seeing fewer patients as their hours shrink, and they start working more like hourly employees. It is possible that we may see a disruption in the continuity of care as physicians adopt this new schedule.
Ironically, an increase in the percentage of employed physicians could actually have an effect contrary to the intent of the Affordable Care Act to increase access to healthcare.
The work environment for a physician is clearly changing dramatically as there are increased demands for doctors to become more savvy in technology. In the short term, consumers could find it challenging to get the care and information they need, as the healthcare industry transforms itself.
Sreedhar Potarazu is an ophthalmologist and founder and CEO of Vital Spring Technologies. He blogs at Business and Policy.