Three years after the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, popularly known as “Obamacare,” scholars and political pundits have paid much attention to the macroeconomic effects of the law. Will Obamacare bend the health care cost curve? What will be its impact on the federal budget deficit? How will it affect the bottom lines of small businesses and the economic security of the middle class?
When it comes to these questions, one can find a wide disparity of opinions among analysts, physicians, and even the authors of this commentary. But when it comes to the microeconomic ramifications of Obamacare — the effects the law will have on the business of delivering health care, especially in the non-hospital setting — there is little uncertainty: change is coming. As tens of millions of previously uninsured Americans obtain coverage, thereby allowing many to shop for doctors for the first time, the health care market will grow dramatically. Physicians thus will need to find ways to extend their capacity so that they can take advantage of this unique opportunity to expand their practices.
As the fee-for-service model continues its decline — and physician reimbursements come to be based on the quality, not quantity, of care — providing preventive care and promoting wellness will become a business, and not just clinical, priority. Meanwhile, Americans will take more ownership over their health care as they obtain insurance, face higher deductibles, and gain more knowledge through newly available price and quality information. Physicians will need to foster closer individual relationships with patients and prioritize not only cost efficiency, but also customer service, much in the way other businesses have in increasingly competitive retail sectors.
In this post, we outline the upcoming opportunities and challenges Obamacare is likely to present for physicians. We describe how physicians might adapt accordingly and suggest an embrace of emerging technology as a key element of success in the post-Obamacare practice.
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