The world of healthcare is filled with myths, misgivings and misunderstandings that have helped create a muddy picture for those trying to figure out what comes next.
Let's address a few misconceptions:
Myth: Government and private payers are creating a less onerous regulatory environment for physicians. The new order promises faster claims processing, less paperwork and fewer hassles.
Reality: If that's the case, why are our "friends" in Washington considering a new coding system that would force physicians to deal with 200,000 codes, compared with 4,000 choices in the current ICD-9 system? Or, consider that the state of Illinois owes healthcare providers more than $1 billion for treating Medicaid patients. Other money-parched states also are deferring payments to physicians and hospitals as a way to deal with mounting budget deficits.
Myth: To reach maximum efficiency, healthcare organizations must become paperless.
Reality: Quit listening to the computer wonks. Rather than this goofy paperless preoccupation, hospitals and clinics should strive to empower all those involved in the care of a patient to view real-time records, then communicate and take appropriate action. If a physician is more comfortable filing printed copies of the information entered into the computer, then so be it.
Myth: The federal government will create a universal health insurance program in response to the staggering number of U.S. residents lacking medical coverage.
Reality: This is a far better campaign issue than it is realistic public policy. A costly war, the floundering economy and broader support for a Medicare drug benefit leave universal coverage dead in the water for years to come. However, the dream will be kept alive by foundation studies, academic conferences and political rhetoric.
Myth: The quality of care is getting worse.
Reality: Actually, the spotlight on medical errors and clinical outcome measurements has bolstered quality improvement efforts. However, many well-intentioned quality initiatives are overmatched by the complexity of treating sicker and older patients with smaller support staffs, a dizzying number of new drugs and advanced technological options. Nevertheless, a recent state-by-state analysis of Medicare patients by CMS researchers found that physicians and hospitals improved on 20 of 22 quality measures in 2000-2001, compared with a similar survey two years earlier.
Confusion will continue to confound the healthcare industry.
Physician leaders must ignore the noise and push for a clinical/business environment that is patient-focused and dedicated to measuring and improving quality.