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How Health Reform Is Changing How Physicians Care For Female Patients


As 2014 approaches, physicians are going to encounter more changes when it comes to their interactions with female patients.

Health reform is bringing about massive changes: from shifting reimbursement, to increasing emphasis on health IT, to new models of care.

It's also beginning to change the way female patients interact with physicians, the services female patients request from physicians, and the services physicians might want to consider recommending to their female patients.

"Generally it takes a little bit of time for the general public to really start to use any sort of implementations of a new law," Lauren Fifield, senior health policy advisor at Practice Fusion, recently told Physicians Practice. "With health reform, there are a handful of things that have already come into effect, and I think that those are only going to become more and more applicable to physician offices."

One of the biggest changes physician offices might encounter with female patients is increasing demand for preventive services, said Fifield, adding that insurers must now make certain preventive services available to women without a copayment or co-insurance.

Some of the most recently added preventive services to fall into this category include: 
Well-woman visits.
• Gestational diabetes screening for women 24 to 28 weeks pregnant, and those at high risk of developing gestational diabetes.
• Domestic and interpersonal violence screening and counseling for all women.
• Breastfeeding counseling from trained providers; access to breastfeeding supplies.
• Contraceptive services and counseling.

Of note for physicians: Many of these services include an element of counseling, said Fifield. "These are all sort of really focused on not just, let's give a patient a medication or make sure they have a mammogram, but ... making sure that they are treating the patient more holistically."

Physicians may also experience higher demand from female patients in general moving into 2014, and they may encounter more female patients with undiagnosed chronic conditions or conditions that have gone untreated for a long period of time. That's because more female patients will become newly insured in 2014 due to the health law.

"I think providers will start to have higher volumes of patients and also have to really work as a care team ... to manage the care of women that are going to be sort of entering the healthcare space newly with their new insurance," said Fifield.

So how should physicians prepare for these changes?

Ensure key individuals in your practice are aware of the preventive services that are available without cost to patients. That way they can inform patients of these services during visits.

In addition, pay close attention to the counseling elements associated with these preventive services and ensure your practice is prepared to incorporate that into its work flows, said Fifield.

"I also think that really utilizing technology will be incredibly helpful," she said. "Technology for doctors to help make scheduling more efficient, to make visits more efficient since they may be dealing with higher volumes of patients, and an [EHR] or other tools that help a care team manage their patients and sort of coordinate that care will be important."


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