Healthcare in 2014: Take a Proactive Approach to Major Changes

January 13, 2014
Michael Sappington

2014 is going to be harder for most medical practices than many believe mainly due to change apathy and paralysis in dealing with major changes.

Have you heard that the first week of January is one of the most depressing of the year? Just think how outrageous that is. I thought that you were supposed to kiss a loved one at midnight, not put on your pajamas, and contemplate everything negative that has happened to you. While the new year brings with it immeasurable hope, we have essentially set such a high expectation level for change that once the calendar flips, we have been built up for a letdown.

Let’s translate what this looks like to medical practices. Walk into any independent medical practice and ask them about the Stage 2 rules for meaningful use or the ICD-10 coding transition, and the majority will give you the same answer: "It will just get delayed again." You might even get the famous line: "I’m just over all of these changes."

Yes, these things are openly said about regulations that will directly impact the bottom line and patient interaction for the foreseeable future. Talk about taking something lightly, this is beginning to feel more and more like there are people openly hoping that something like Tax Day might somehow get delayed this year. I’ve got news to you - it won’t, and you should act like it won’t as well.

So, how have we gotten here?

In no way do I consider myself a part of Pavlov’s greater research organization, but many individuals at practices have essentially become conditioned to practice uniformity. I’ve spoken previously about the theory that practices are truly optimized for the status quo, and it is from this belief that you can see the direct ties to a malaise of indifference.

I don’t see, however, all of the blame in the direction of practices. When you look at how all deadlines from officials of the CMS and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT has been fluid and constantly in a state of flux, the newsworthiness and the continued interest of each forthcoming impact is tremendously reduced. It’s the same feeling you get when the weather reporter warns of an imminent storm coming in your direction, only to be greeted by a few inconvenient showers or breezes. Repeat that feeling multiple times over as there always seems to be one pending storm on the doorstep.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I think the impacts of ICD-10 and the Stage 2 rules of meaningful use will be more than a mere inconvenience. I am simply suggesting that the numbness of change in 2014 will directly lead to a bigger impact than we have ever seen before.

Let’s take a big dose of reality. Could there be another delay down the pike? Perhaps. Why take such a big gamble on your practice, when you can instead use moments like these to directly create a practice infrastructure that can ignore deadlines since it is ahead of the curve? Changing the practice-wide mentality from one of reaction first to change/proactive first can get your practice on the right track for the future.

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