When it comes to profitability, 2014 is looking a little cloudy for physician practices, which will have to contend with reimbursement cuts, uncertainty stemming from the Affordable Care Act, and other financial challenges.
But in every black cloud there is a silver lining, and for medical practices, this is the promise of new technology.
CareCloud, a provider of cloud-based EHRs and other technology for healthcare organizations, and QuantiaMD, earlier this year put out findings from a survey of 5,000 physicians— dubbed the first Practice Profitability Index — based on answers to questions on these issues. Recently, CareCloud CEO Albert Santalo sat down with Physicians Practice to discuss how investing in good technology can help keep practices profitable in 2014.
One of the key finding of the PPI study was that the 5,012 physician participants were two-thirds more likely to foresee a downward trend in profitability for the year ahead than a positive one (36 percent negative vs. 22 percent positive).
Three of the top four issues negatively affecting profitability for all physicians stemmed from healthcare reform, led by declining reimbursements (65 percent), rising costs (57 percent), Affordable Care Act-related requirements (48 percent) and coding and documentation changes, including ICD-10 (44 percent). The PPI also found that 48 percent of physician practices indicated that increased operational and billing pressures will leave them unable to accept any of the influx of 30 million newly insured Americans expected to join the healthcare system, indicating a concerning access to care issue.
"Physicians have lots and lots of things occupying their minds right now, like with ICD-10, and all the stuff surrounding complying with meaningful use Stage 2," Santalo told Physicians Practice. "They continue to be concerned as their costs go up but yet their reimbursement doesn't go up."
At the same time, a growing number of physicians want to remain independent, even as some move toward forming ACO and similar relationships. For physicians in this group, investing in technology that actually helps improve productivity is key. This, in turn, means physicians should take a closer look at their existing EHRs and other technology and evaluate whether it really is helping them.
"A lot of [physicians] went out into the market and bought first-generation EHRs, and they were much more focused on complying with meaningful use and getting their $44,000 of stimulus money," said Santalo. "And what they found … a lot of them weren't educated buyers and they bought the brand names, which are solutions that are decades old at this point and those systems weren't optimized for usability. The [systems] got the job done but they didn't make doctors more efficient … the purpose of most computer systems is to make people more efficient, not less efficient."