Posts Tagged ‘physicians’

Healthcare Industry Offers Cost Savings

Thursday, July 16th, 2009

Healthcare providers will slash up to $1.7 trillion in costs over the next 10 years by enhancing the care of chronic diseases, reorganizing administrative procedures and eliminating unnecessary treatments.medical_bill

This is a sneak peak at how healthcare systems, physicians, pharmaceutical companies, insurers, medical device manufacturers and other stakeholders plan to respond to President Barack Obama’s request that the industry find ways to control patient costs.  Among the American Medical Association’s (AMA) suggestions are cutting overused – and often unnecessary — procedures, such as Caesarean sections.  The savings are crucial to funding the Obama administration’s proposed health system overhaul.

A new White House study states that reforming healthcare will increase the nation’s GDP by two percent in 2020 and eight percent in 2030, cut unemployment and save families an average of $2,600 a year by 2020.  Without healthcare reform, the number of uninsured Americans will rise to 72 million by 2040, compared with 46 million today.

Christina Romer, chair of the president’s Council of Economic Advisers, said “The one thing that’s happened relative to the 1990s is the nightmare scenario is getting closer.”  Other recommendations include reducing medical errors, using common insurance forms, improving physician performance standards, readmitting fewer patients to hospitals, improving drug development efficiency and expanding in-home care for patients with long-term illnesses.

Recession Forces Physicians to Rethink Retirement

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

The recession and its impact on investment portfolios, as well as declining Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements, are making physicians rethink their retirement dates.

Some physicians have seen their stock markets portfolios fall by as much as 50 percent.  In today’s economy, selling practices might not bring the anticipated profit, according to William Jessee, M.D., president and CEO of the Medical Group Management Association.  “I look at my 401(k) and think ‘Okay, I just turned 62, and 70 is starting to look like a better retirement field,'” Dr. Jessee said.20071003_nest_egg_18

A 2007 survey of 1,200 physicians found that 48 percent aged 50 to 65 were planning to retire, find non-clinical jobs, work part-time, close their practices to new patients and/or substantially reduce their patient load.  Since the survey was conducted, Americans’ retirement funds have lost as much as $2 trillion.

“It has not been entertaining watching all my hard-earned money disappear,” according to Jeffrey Sankoff, 41, a Denver physician.  “But I’ve got about 10 to 15 years before I need to worry because my 401(k) will just sit there and eventually recover and grow.  Those physicians closer to retirement age – hopefully their portfolio is balanced in such as way that this catastrophe won’t have as big of an impact as it’s had on me.”

The silver lining in these deferred retirements is that they could prevent a physician shortage, a result of medical schools capping their enrollments at 16,000 students per year because they believed that managed care would create a glut.  It is estimated the shortage could be as much as 250,000 physicians in the next 10 years.

Walk-In Clinic A Good Fit With the Healthcare Village

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

Urgent care centers (Illinois law mandates that they be called immediate or convenient care centers) are gaining ground nationwide as an alternative for families with minor medical emergencies that require quick treatment.  Although the walk-in clinic concept has been around for more than 20 years, the trend is picking up steam in an increasingly cost-conscious healthcare environment.  emergency_roomApproximately 8,000 such facilities currently are open for business in the United States.

A 2008 survey by the Urgent Care Association of America found that most centers are owned by physicians, and approximately 15 percent are hospital affiliated.  More than 55 percent are located in suburbs, where well-off patients with private insurance are unwilling to spend hours waiting in an emergency room.  The survey found that of an average of five employees, 1.7 are physicians; 0.4 are nurse practitioners; 0.7 are registered nurses; and 2.3 are clinical staff or medical assistants.  Sixty percent of patients are seen by a physician, nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant in just 30 minutes.

Alter+Care sees immediate care centers as a great fit with Alter+Care’s Healthcare Village concept (our concept of a wellness/preventive-focused outpatient campus, see www.healthcarevillage.net, because the village becomes a healthcare destination while generating visibility and visits for all services located in the village such as diagnostics/imaging, specialty clinics, physician practices, retail healthcare, laboratory and the wellness center.  For patients, the centers provide easy access and reasonably priced care because they typically charge far less than an emergency room visit.  Insurers who want to control costs are encouraging people to use urgent care facilities as an alternative, especially during after hours and on weekends.

Healthcare Industry Plan Mandates Welcome Cost Reductions

Monday, May 18th, 2009

Barack Obama may get his way on healthcare reform with the full cooperation of those who vocally lobbied against it during the 1990s.  The timing couldn’t be better — healthcare costs total $2.4 trillion annually (an average of $7,868 per person) and are projected to rise to $4 trillion by 2016.health-care-reform-more-critical-than-ever_large

In a reversal, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, physicians and other industry leaders presented a plan to the White House proposing to save $2 trillion in healthcare delivery costs over the next 10 years.  Participants included the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association, the Advanced Medical Technology Association, America’s Health Insurance Plans and the Service Employees International Union — which master-minded the bold move.  Although healthcare costs will continue to rise, this plan will slow the pace.

“We cannot continue down the same dangerous road we’ve been traveling for so many years, with costs that are out of control, because reform is not a luxury that can be postponed, but a necessity that cannot wait,” Obama said.

Obama’s proposed plan is based on the existing system, where employers, the government and individuals share responsibility for paying for privately delivered healthcare.  The government will subsidize coverage for additional people and mandate stricter consumer protection.

It’s evident that the healthcare industry has seen the writing on the wall.  Their willingness to work with the Obama Administration and Congress – compared with the fierce opposition to Bill Clinton’s healthcare reform efforts 15 years ago – is a turnaround that should translate to real change.

The Healthcare Village: Making Good Health More Convenient

Friday, April 17th, 2009

With 78 million baby boomers marching towards retirement, the U.S. population is older and less healthy as cases of obesity, diabetes and other chronic diseases increase, says Donna F. Jarmusz, Alter+Care Senior Vice President, in a recent interview for the Inspire blog.  These same consumers dislike inconvenient, institutional healthcare delivery systems, are demanding and have high expectations.  We have a drive-through mindset and enjoy everyday consumer experiences– buying a cup of coffee, drive-up banking, picking up dry cleaning.  We hardly think about them because they’re all convenient and accessible.
Consumers are looking for a similar consumer focus in their healthcare services.  They are also looking to healthcare providers for preventative health resources to achieve healthier lifestyles.

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I’ve Got One Word for You – “Healthcare”

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

If Benjamin Braddock graduated from340x1 college today, the clueless Mr. Robinson would likely tell him to go into healthcare – not plastics — as he advised the befuddled young man in the classic 1967 movie “The Graduate”.

Although the economy is shedding jobs at an alarming rate, the healthcare industry added 371,600 jobs during 2008.  That momentum has not slowed, despite the fiscal crisis and recession.  While the economy lost 1.9 million jobs during the fourth quarter of 2008, healthcare added 93,200 jobs.  Hospitals hired 11,900 new workers in December, bringing the nation’s total hospital workforce up to approximately 4.71 million.  Physicians’ offices hired 5,600 more staff, bringing that workforce up to nearly 2.3 million employees.

Ambulatory-care centers saw 1,100 jobs vanish during December, a 0.2 percent loss.  Still, that fast-growing sector grew to 521,700 jobs during all of 2008, a 1.7 percent increase compared with the previous year.

“The only major private industry sector that continued to add a significant number of jobs was healthcare”, notes Keith Hall, commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

According to a new Ernst & Young study on business risk, the global war for talent will be top of the mind for CEOs.  Nowhere will this be more evident than in healthcare.  There remains a chronic shortage of surgeons and family-practice doctors.  Part of this is because U.S. medical schools held enrollment to 16,000 students a year from 1980 to 2005, fearing a glut of doctors under managed care.  Perhaps the hiring by hospitals is a correction to 25 years of no-growth within certain specialties and the continuing dearth of nurses.

Physician Shortage vs. Aging Baby Boomers a “Perfect Storm”

Monday, April 6th, 2009

As 78 million aging baby boomers deal with more chronic conditions, the country is facing a serious shortage of physicians. Compounding the crisis is the fact that between 1985 and 2006, the percentage of physicians aged 55 and older climbed from 27 percent to 34 percent, according to statistics from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC).  Approximately 250,000 active physicians are expected to retire between now and 2020.  These shortages are especially critical among surgeons and family medicine practitioners.

The doctor deficit has its roots in the 1980s and 1990s when medical schools capped their enrollments at 16,000 students per year because they believed that managed care would create a physician glut.  6a00d8341caabc53ef00e5516c58f68833-800wiThe exact opposite has happened and medical schools were “woefully wrong” in their assessment, according to Josef Fischer, chairman of surgery at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.  “It’s going to be tough in this situation to make it better.”

Accordingly, medical educators have identified the problem and are finally accepting more applicants.  During 2008, nearly 17,800 students started medical school — the largest class ever.  By 2015, medical schools hope to achieve a 30 percent increase in enrollment over 2002 levels.  Still, Fischer warns of “a perfect storm” forming, because it takes three to seven years to train physicians at a time when the number of senior citizens in the United States is growing fast.  With training for surgeons often exceeding seven years and few pre-med students focused on primary care as a career, additional enrollments are only a first step in the right direction.

Many doctors would prefer a career in primary medicine, focused on prevention and health, but the reality of medicine in today’s environment is that reimbursement for physician services is decreasing.  The healthcare system itself is discouraging the very best and brightest talent from pursuing primary care.  Fixing what is broken in the system at a time when prevention should be more important than ever requires fast action if we are to meet our needs in the next decade.