7 healthcare trends that will impact physicians

January 6, 2020

Changing consumer preferences and tech reliance will affect clinical, operational, and financial realities of physicians.

From the time you started preparing for the MCATs to wherever you are in your medical career today, it’s likely that the healthcare landscape has dramatically changed, challenging your pre-conceived notions about patient care and everyday business operations.

Politically, healthcare continues to be a hot-button topic, dividing voters on the issues like Medicare-for-all. Additionally, some states have made significant legislative moves to expand Medicaid while other states are enacting laws which seek to provide their residents with more affordable healthcare options. Overall, the nation’s outlook on future healthcare provisions is uncertain. 

Beyond the political landscape, changing consumer preferences about care and an increased reliance on technology likely will most impact the top healthcare trends affecting the clinical, operational, and financial realities physicians will face. 

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So which healthcare trends should physicians look out for in 2020 and beyond? 

1. Transparency: Today’s healthcare consumer is not only frugal, but technology-reliant and convenience-driven. Consumers are searching for their care online and basing their healthcare choices on online reviews, availability of care, and transparently published pricing. The result? An increased reliance on retail clinics and urgent care providers that are giving larger practices a run for their money. Some physicians are opting to add urgent care services to their practice while others are offering mobile consultations. 

2. Consolidation: Not only are small hospitals being acquired by larger healthcare systems, but many private practices are selling ownership to hospitals or larger practices in order to re-focus their energies on patient care. For some, these moves may seem to be an indicator of better care at more affordable prices to come, but for others, the accelerating rate of mergers and acquisitions may feel like a healthcare game of monopoly with industry giants emerging to claim the largest share. Will a private practice be able to survive in this evolving climate? At what cost? How will a physician be able to differentiate his or her value to consumers over these larger, more streamlined models?

3. The Shift to Value-Based Care: Value-based care is an alternative to fee-based care whereby a physician or hospital is compensated in relationship to outcomes, rather than amount of services provided. The Centers for Medicaid Services (CMS) has introduced a handful of value-based models aimed at holding physicians accountable and in turn promoting better care, improving overall population health, and reducing healthcare costs; however, this model is not without its own problems. For example, medical professionals may feel compelled to order additional tests and labs to demonstrate the efficacy of their medical treatment plans. 

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4. Staffing Shortages: With an aging population, doctors and nurses in the healthcare industry are retiring at a rate faster than they are being replaced, causing a staffing shortage across the board. And with technology-based, on-demand services that can connect physicians and nurses to temporary positions on an as-needed basis, some candidates are choosing to forego the traditional practice setting for this type of “freelance-esque” work option. This is great option for single practitioners looking to pocket some cash and travel while working, but it has made hiring qualified candidates in the traditional setting more difficult.

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5. Cybersecurity: A by-product of the accelerating rate of technology changes along with the widespread adoption of electronic medical records is mounting concern regarding information protection. More data breaches are targeting medical companies and exploiting private healthcare records for financial gain. Our increased reliance on technology raises questions for both providers and patients alike, including: ‘How do we know our information is safeguarded?’, ‘What protections can a provider put in place to insulate their patient’s sensitive information?’, ‘What insurances might a provider need to carry to this type of risk management?’, and ‘What will that insurance cost?’

6. Telehealth: The consumer inclination toward fast, easy, and affordable is making telehealth, or remotely offered care via video, a popular choice for both the busy working professional as well as the rural farmer who might find it difficult to make it to a doctor in person. With so many options available, physicians will have to decide which makes the most personal and fiscal sense for their life, their medical practice and their financial situation. 

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7. Push to Outpatient Centers: Many medical procedures are being shifted to outpatient centers, not only to meet patient preferences, but to help save both the hospital and the patient money. Advances in anesthesia and the rise of minimally invasive procedures have made it possible for individuals to return home shortly after routine procedures, lowering overall reliance on inpatient care. Not only does this allow providers to see more patients per day, but reduces their overhead. 

The healthcare space is constantly evolving and physicians looking to provide excellent patient care while remaining financially viable and personally fulfilled will need to adapt to these ever-changing conditions. Understanding the current climate and emerging trends will help you prepare for the future and put a financial plan in place that accounts for the industry’s uncertainties. The upside? With so many options available, you’re sure to find a niche that will cater to your ideal lifestyle and still provide a desirable income. 

Julianne F. Andrews, MBA, CFP, AIF is a principal and co-founder of Atlanta Financial Associates. She specializes in working with physicians and executives in the healthcare industry. Her passion for working with physicians comes from being a pediatrician’s spouse for more than three decades. Julie has been featured on Forbes’ list of America’s Top Women Wealth Advisors since 2017 as well as Forbes’ Best-in-State Wealth Advisors since 2018. Julie can be reached at jandrews@atlantafinancial.com.