Experts predict 2019 will be the year that Americans start seeing dramatic change at all levels of the healthcare industry, including managed healthcare systems, hospitals, medical groups and private medical practices. The most profound transformations involve technology, compliance, value-based healthcare, analytics, human resources and marketing. The changes are expected to place short-term demands on the industry, but ultimately deliver better healthcare and financial stability.
This article will focus on technological changes affecting private medical practices, some of which involve systems that were pioneered many years ago.
For example, artificial intelligence was introduced in 1984 during the first robot assisted orthopedic surgery, but it is now being developed to create real-time clinical applications that will optimize decisions and healthcare.
Conversely, electronic medical records (EMR) are relatively new, having been mandated in an executive order by President George W. Bush in 2004. Some of the content in that legal instrument (e.g. “measurable outcome goals”) was refined and embellished in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (see Title III, Improving the Quality and Efficiency of Health Care and Title IV: Prevention of Chronic Disease and Improving Public Health).
Technologic advances will greatly impact private medical practices in areas such as reduced operating costs as well as improvements to diagnostics and imaging, wearable technologies, virtual care, electronic medical records, data security and patient privacy, billing and payments.
First, medical technology will deliver considerable economic savings and value to the industry.
The article “5 Ways Technology Can Reduce Healthcare Costs” (May 2018) by Healthcare Weekly stated five cost-saving measures:
- The automation of repetitive tasks will reduce physician work hours.
- Staffing software will lower labor costs by efficiently allocating personnel without the need for expensive overtime or temporary employees.
- Digital marketing will allow private medical practices to reach patients suffering from specific conditions and generate better returns on investment.
- Efficient insurance claims processing will improve revenue cycle management.
- Supply chain management software will optimize inventory tracking and the use of resources while eliminating waste.
Furthermore, a June 2015 report by Goldman Sachs analysts “estimated the potential overall savings from digital healthcare at $305 billion, with up to $200 billion coming from improvements in chronic disease management. The report also says digital healthcare market revenues could reach $32.4 billion in the near term.”
More recently, a 2017 study by Accenture Strategy analyzed six therapeutic areas (diabetes, congestive heart failure, Alzheimer’s disease, HIV, breast cancer and multiple myeloma) and said the healthcare industry will save over $60 billion in the long-term by making sound technological investments. This risk-adjusted estimate translates to $24,184 per patient.
“An approach that quantifies the economic impact of digital assets within the health system,” stated the study, “enables life sciences companies to estimate the dollar value of digital assets in specific therapeutic areas across three dimensions of the patient journey: prevention/early diagnosis, intervention and monitoring.”
The healthcare industry already uses artificial intelligence (AI), but greater integration is expected in 2019.
Artificial intelligence will reduce clinical and billing errors while greatly enhancing the imaging, diagnostics and treatments at hospitals and private medical practices in thousands of ways. One need only follow the money trail to see how much stock investors are placing in AI.
Artificial intelligence is expected to automate tasks more efficiently and accurately than humans. Examples include:
- Less intrusive procedures.
- Advanced analytics and decision support.
- Automated record keeping.
- Early diagnosis of sepsis.
- Cardiovascular imaging and analysis.
- Faster testing and diagnostic protocols.
- Screening and early diagnosis of cancers such as breast, prostate and colorectal.
- Instant eye disease detection.
- Early-stage analysis of dermatological lesions.
- Innovation in robotic surgery.
Related medical technologies include the 3D printing of prosthetics and implants, acute stroke diagnosis and intervention, and using CGI and virtual reality while training healthcare professionals.
Wearable watches were invented in 1500, but it took another 500 years to add the smart technologies offered by Google Glass (the first), The Motorola Moto 360, Android Wear or Apple Watch.
The technology gained traction in healthcare with the addition of fitness apps and biometric data such as heart rate, brain waves, sleep quality, hydration, nutrition and fall detection.
The latest smartwatches include additions such as blood pressure monitoring, irregular heartbeat detection and glucose sensors. Furthermore, other types of wearable devices offer sleep apnea tracking, ultraviolet sensors, drug delivery systems, smart inhalers that monitor asthma, early disease detection and diagnosis, and wearable patches such as baby thermometers.
Woven circuitries, organic and conductive materials, and flexible fashion technologies will be introduced in the near future.
Virtual care (aka “telemedicine”) is also expected to provide physicians with more quality time in the office. Virtual care consists of real-time consultations with patients via phone or video chat apps on computers or mobile devices.
The benefits of virtual care include access to patients located in rural areas, increased specialist availability, lower or no appointment fees, convenience and increased engagement from patients who dislike office visits. This technology is expected to increase the number of patients seeking treatment.
Electronic Medical Records
The optimization of electronic medical records is expected to limit their shortcomings and vastly improve the user experience for healthcare professionals. For example, 90 percent of doctors said they would welcome more efficient EMR in the Deloitte 2018 Survey of US Physicians. The main areas of concern include how the current EMR handle documentation, communication, care coordination, insurance, prescriptions and workflows, billing and payments.
The application of Blockchain technology to EMR will improve the way private medical practices communicate and share files across multiple branches of the industry, including specialists, testing facilities, hospitals and insurance companies. Blockchain offers improved data security over existing file sharing methods with greater accountability and accessibility since the digital ledgers are monitored by numerous factions in a global network.
Examples include monetary transactions between payers and providers, the sharing of EMR between providers, and communication between patients and private medical practices. All of these stakeholders stand to be winners from the improved data security, connectivity and patient privacy.
Technology Will Reduce Administrative Work
Recent staffing trends at private medical practices include physician and nursing shortages, hospitals purchasing private practices, and physicians leaving practices for positions at hospitals and managed healthcare institutions.
Their discontent mainly stems from rising expenses and spending too much time on non-clinical responsibilities. According to surveys, physicians spend over 20 percent of their time on administrative work, thus reducing quality time with patients.
Acknowledging the need for private medical practices and the desire for many physicians to continue working in them, the industry is searching for creative solutions such as the automations and artificial intelligence mentioned above. These changes will incentivize their stay by reducing administrative responsibilities so physicians can devote more time to treating patients.
Private medical practices can also reduce administrative hours with CrossCheck’s Medical Remote Deposit Capture service (MED-RDC). This service guarantees patient payments while providing the convenience of electronic check processing for patient and insurance payments.
MED-RDC helps increase sales and mitigate risk while saving time and money by eliminating claims submissions, bank visits to deposit checks, missed deposit dates, the collection of bad checks, and more:
- Convenient 24/7 check processing, transaction reporting and review.
- Free 24/7 Customer Service and Tech Support.
- Loaner equipment available at no additional charge.
MED-RDC can be enhanced with premium services such as Multiple Check, a future deposit function that allows patients to write up to four checks for one office visit and designate the deposit date for each check (usually over 30 days).
MED-RDC benefits both patients and medical practices. Patients are given extra time to pay for care without delay or credit checks. Meanwhile, private practices receive guaranteed funding from CrossCheck (typically in 48 – 72 hours).
Download our free guide to learn how MED-RDC can help increase sales at your private practice.