A Promising Future for Independent Medical Practices

October 20, 2014

We believe that the future of U.S. healthcare is decentralized, mobilized, and democratized. Here's why.

On September 17, we attended The Economist magazine’s 2014 Health Care Forum in Boston. The event was marketed to high-level executives at large healthcare organizations, and we’re pretty sure Leann was the only administrator from a tiny micropractice in attendance. Taking a cue from current bestsellers, Leann was "leaning in" and "getting off the sidelines," and she is glad she did.

Here's a closer look at some of the major themes that emerged at the forum, and what they could mean for small, independent practices:

Leann’s favorite panel was on product innovation and featured the amazing Anita Goel, MD, chairman and chief executive of Nanobiosym. Goel, along with a number of speakers from panels throughout the forum, stressed her belief that the future of healthcare was three things:
1. Decentralized
2. Mobilized
3. Democratized

Eight years ago when we started our micropractice, we believed that by utilizing technology, we could cut the cost of delivering primary healthcare and increase the time a provider could focus on each individual patient. Many experts at the healthcare forum confirmed that leaders in the industry also hold this belief and it will only increase in the years ahead.

Interestingly, one of the sponsors of the forum was CVS Health. As we’ve blogged about in the past, we have mixed feelings about the retailed-based clinics (RBCs) that CVS and others offer, but many of our colleagues, and Physicians Practice readers, detest RBCs and blame them for the decrease in patient volumes and revenue.

Helena Foulkes, president of CVS/pharmacy and executive vice-president of CVS Health, spoke on the healthcare of the future panel and, interestingly, she had very little to say about RBCs. Instead, she focused on the future of pharmacy and the role CVS sees itself playing in helping to keep patients on prescribed medications.

In networking with other attendees, Leann learned that the general consensus was that telemedicine, offered by third parties as well as directly from primary-care physicians, was going to quickly replace RBCs.

As we see it, telemedicine is basically adding Skype to the free phone advice we current give and, hopefully, getting paid for it. We’re excited by this!

In contrast to the message of decentralized, mobilized, and democratized, Leann also heard a running theme from speakers that size mattered, that there are limits to what small organizations can do.

We believe that in the future, independent physician associations (IPAs) and professional organizations like the AMA and the Medical Group Management Association will be critical for giving political voice to the decentralized providers we all will become.