In the coming year, there will be many changes in the world of medicine. As is to be expected, these changes will each come with their own set of challenges. While these challenges may seem overwhelming, if they’re handled correctly, healthcare can come out stronger and smarter than ever before.

Challenge #1: Government Mandates

In 2014 there will be many new required programs and modifications put into place. The 10th revision of the ICD-10 coding system will be put into effect and, if not used, the practice will no longer qualify for reimbursement. The second stage of the Meaningful Use incentive program will also begin and the rules put forth by HIPAA will be updated.

Challenge #2: ACA Confusion

Under the Affordable Care Act, people have to hunt for insurance plans and new doctors as insurance agencies drop providers. Finding quality healthcare that suits the needs of the patient may become a time-consuming and puzzling process. This can take time and money from both the patients and the physicians.

Challenge #3: Finances

Currently, healthcare is undergoing several changes in terms of payment and financial requirements. Many of the provisions in the Accountable Care Act will take effect in 2014, influencing how patients are able to pay for medical services. Networks are narrowing to allow for lowered healthcare costs and greater negotiation. Also, with the Obamacare system put into place, practices will have to create a strategy for handling the influx of patients and the collection of payment.

Challenge #4: Time

Every year, an increasing number of physicians claim they haven’t been able to spend enough time with their patients. Many worry that the Affordable Care Act may mean even more requirements and more patients to take up the physician’s time. With ICD-10, there will also be more time spent on implementing the new codes and training the staff. Ultimately, physicians may pay the price. Less time with each patient may mean a decline in patient satisfaction and a decrease in business. Quality of care could also suffer.

Challenge #5: Staff Changes

It has become very apparent that there’s a shortage in primary care physicians. As less people enter the medical workforce and older physicians begin to retire, providers will have to find a way to stay in business while increasing their patient volume to compensate for the decrease in providers.

Challenge #6: Costs of Technology

Technology costs are projected to rise dramatically as ICD-10 is put into motion and HIPAA rules and regulations change. Electronic health records are also increasingly popular and with the many system updates and the staff training, costs can quickly begin to build up. The technology will have to be kept up to date, as well as the staff who use it.

Challenge #7: The Modern Patient

One of the greatest changes to the world of healthcare has been the Affordable Care Act. Millions of Americans without previous access to health insurance will now be able to afford it. This, in turn, means an increased number of patients will be looking for the right practice to fit their needs. In order to determine this, it’s not uncommon for patients to turn to the internet. In terms of medicine, online health advice is a relatively new concept. Fortunately, it doesn’t mean a decline in the number of patients seeing physicians. However, it does mean that often patients will have made a self-diagnosis that they’re seeking to verify. This trend is something that physicians need to be aware of and ready to face.

Challenge #8: Power in the Hands of the Physicians

Stress and a feeling of losing autonomy are not uncommon among practicing physicians. The world of medicine is losing its appeal as costs rise, insurance policies become more complex, and time to focus on patients is rare.  Physicians need to rediscover their love of medicine and find time to focus on their patients.

Challenge #9: Changing Primary Care

The Affordable Care Act was designed with the idea in mind that it would somehow connect and reform the broken healthcare system. While that may be the case, these changes affect the many primary care physicians and patients who now have to adapt to the new system. Ultimately, this could have a positive outcome but, in the meantime, physicians have to find a way to navigate through the obstacles that this legislation has presented.

Challenge #10: Finding a Balance

2014 has only just begun and we’re already able to see the many challenges that practicing physicians will have to face. The Affordable Care Act is in full-swing, the process of switching to ICD-10 has been initiated, and the new regulations of Stage 2 Meaningful Use and HIPAA are being enforced.  It’s going to be up to the physicians to find a way to balance the fluctuating healthcare environment and the needs of their patients.

Author: Lauren Daniels

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