Part 3: Deja Vu: The Return of the Hard Market
A recent study conducted in part by the American Medical Association found that primary care physicians (PCPs) are now spending nearly half of their workday on electronic health records (EHRs). Yet the vast majority of EHR systems are not inter-operable, and fewer still utilize machine learning. So who is really benefiting from this data input? Unless PCPs have a stake in the companies which are profiting from the use of this data, they are helping to build a future healthcare system in which their role will be diminished, if not eliminated. Three major steps can be taken by physicians to avoid this eventuality:
- Incorporate machine learning into their systems: This way, PCPs will not be entering data for others, but learning how to use artificial intelligence to grow their own practices. If successful, PCPs will be able to treat a larger population of patients more efficiently and effectively. With value-based care slowly but steadily replacing fee-for-service, this is a critical time to be learning how to harness AI, rather than entering data into EHRs.
- Embrace value-based care and assume more risk for patient outcomes: Fully harnessing the potential of AI may be several months – if not years – away. But building the analytical infrastructure and forging relationship with strategic partners that can help to reduce the overall cost of healthcare for a patient population can begin now. PCPs that are instrumental in lowering costs should receive their fair share of the resulting profits. Participating in shared-savings programs can be a lucrative means to do so.
- Partner with vendors: The traditional vendor-vendee model in healthcare is broken. Most healthcare vendors rely on physician partners to help them learn and grow, and thus much of the business development can fall on the shoulders of physicians. If successful, the companies may take the lessons learned and use them to land new business – at times even from competitors of the practices that assisted in the development.
To better align interests, physicians should seek an equity stake (however small) during negotiations with vendors. Physicians must first recognize what vendors stand to gain from the relationship and structure the deal accordingly.
Brian S. Kern, Esq., Partner, Acadia Professional.