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11 Healthcare Predictions For 2011

Here are 11 things that are absolutely going to happen* in 2011 (they’re in no particular order….or are they?):

1.  There will be no big compromise between President Obama and the Republicans on healthcare reform. Why? Because the law is such a massive collection of, well, stuff, that it is pretty much impossible to find pieces of it that you could cut a deal on, even if you wanted to. And no, the federal district court decision on the individual mandate doesn’t change my mind…and in fact may breathe new life into other parts of the law). State governments, insurance companies, and private businesses have made all kinds of important and hard to reverse choices based on the law as is. There’s not much of an appetite outside of people trying to score political points for making big changes.

2. No major employer will drop their health benefits. No major employer is going to outsource their healthcare benefits to the government any time soon. Employers — particularly the big self-insured employers that pay for healthcare costs as a bottom-line expense — see their benefits as an integral part of their business and competitive strategies. As Congress looks at this issue more closely, they will learn this.

3. Time that doctors spend with patients will be less in 2011 than earlier years. It’s a long-term trend, and the factors that create this problem aren’t getting better. The latest government data show that the average doctor visit features face to face time with the patient of 15 minutes or less. With an aging population, increasing numbers of people getting health insurance, and no influx of new doctors, this problem will keep getting worse. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at See First Blog*

Patients Starved For Time With The Doctor

If you’re into health care consumerism, you’ll enjoy my guest blog post at CDHC Solutions magazine. CDHC Solutions focuses on consumer-driven health plans. Consumer-driven plans are a form of “high deductible” health coverage that is more popular than ever. For whatever you want to say about these plans, one thing is clear: They don’t solve the fundamental problem of patients not having enough time with their doctors.

Here’s a taste of what I wrote:

Researchers have been trying to pinpoint the impact of this time starvation on the quality of medical care, and they’re finding disturbing results. A recent study in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that because of time pressures and related factors, doctors deliver “error-free” care as rarely as 22 percent of the time. The researchers called this a “failure to individualize care,” which is a nice way of saying the doctors just weren’t paying enough attention to the needs of their patients.

Read the whole blog post here.

*This blog post was originally published at See First Blog*

How Patients Can Enhance Communication With Their Doctors

From Kevin Pho’s medical blog, KevinMD, a post archived from 2004, Pho talks about the struggles of communication between doctor and patient during the 15-minute office visit.

Pho sites a New York Times article that explains that more than two decades ago, research shows that patients were interrupted 18 seconds into explaining their problem (on average) and less than 2 percent got to finish their explanations.

Pho sites that he sometimes falls into the “interruption trap,” saying: “I think this is a natural progression to our managed care environment. Physicians are compensated by quantity of patients seen, and are kept to a strict schedule -– in most cases every 15-minutes.” Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Health in 30*

Primary Care Doctors Rewarded For Time With Patients?

Abraham Verghese is a professor of medicine at Stanford University and one of the most articulate physician-writers today. He recently wrote an op-ed highlighting primary care’s plight, and focuses on the scarcity of time:

The science of medicine has never been more potent – incredible advances and great benefits realized in the treatment of individual diseases – yet the public perception of us physicians is often one of a harried individual more interested in the virtual construct of the patient in the computer than in the living, breathing patient seated on the exam table.Time is the scarcest commodity of all. Patients, particularly when it comes to their routine, day-to-day care, want a physician who has time to understand them as people first, and then as patients.

It’s been frequently discussed on this blog, with solutions ranging from paying physicians per hour to cash-only practices.

There’s no easy answer, and worse, money isn’t even the root of the problem. Often left unaddressed is the burnout that primary care doctors face, practicing in unpalatable environments where the doctor-patient relationship is obstructed by bureaucracy and paperwork. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at*

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