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7 Predictions for Practice Management in 2017 : Page 3 of 3

7 Predictions for Practice Management in 2017 : Page 3 of 3

"Patients will begin self-rationing care because they cannot afford it," she predicts.  "There will be increased drug non-compliance because of the cost of medications, and patients will have worse clinical outcomes."

Girgis goes on to say that the federal insurance exchange program through the ACA will fold.  "The new [President] will devise a 'plan' to fix it, and legislators will meet in a crisis summit to decide the fate of the healthcare system late in 2017," she predicts.

Physicians should also anticipate the need to allocate more time for counseling patients about the cost of healthcare, according to Brian Levine, founding partner and practice director, The Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine-New York (CCRM-NY). "Patients do not understand the risks and benefits of high-deductible plans, out of network benefits and preferred pharmacies," he says. "All of these lead to patient dissatisfaction since they can be hit with charges that they were not anticipating."

A related issue affecting that both physicians and patients is the proposed merger of Aetna and Humana and Anthem and Cigna, says Maccioli.  He notes that while several of the big insurance companies are currently in legal battles with the Department of Justice, if they merge it will have serious implications for physicians' ability to negotiate, not to mention affecting patient choice.

 "Whether you're a health care professional or consumer, that's something we'll all have to contend with in some fashion," Maccioli says.

6. Technology demands.  Increasing reporting and administrative responsibilities will bring more pressure to practices to optimize technology for accessing meaningful patient information, James says.  In a 2016 Quest Diagnostics study, two-thirds of physician respondents said they do not have all the healthcare information they need about their patients.   In addition, only 36 percent reported satisfaction with access to patient data within their existing workflows.  Limitations cited by respondents included lack of information-sharing across EHRs.  Physicians also acknowledged that they need new tools to align their care with the value-based health system.

Othus also foresees increasing challenges for practices to manage data across the spectrum. "Technically speaking, the healthcare industry has a long way to go," she says. "The lack of ability for software to seamlessly communicate still haunts healthcare. Patients find this unacceptable and are growing quite impatient with this ongoing challenge."

The need for more effective data analysis will also become more apparent, says John Bryan, a partner in the accounting, tax and business consulting firm, the New York City-based Citrin Cooperman's healthcare practice. "While it has always been important to track production data and revenue cycle performance, it is becoming more important to be able to analyze patient data in a value based payment world," he says. "Whether it is for quality reporting measures under MIPS or understanding your success in reducing costs across an entire episode of care, practices need to be making the required capital investment in technology and personnel to ensure they have a robust data analysis function within the practice."

7. Patient communication.  In 2017, communicating with patients may bring new challenges, experts say. Bryan says more patients will expect technical conveniences such as portals for accessing test results.  Ditto for prescription information, online or call center options for scheduling appointments, and the ability to complete patient information forms online.  But meeting such demands should be worth the effort. "All of these items should result in higher patient satisfaction and will improve efficiencies in patient flow," he says.

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