Editor's Note: This is Part 1 of a two-part commentary. Part 2 will run June 1.
Medicine is evolving into the most tightly regulated industry in this country. National regulatory agencies such as the CMS, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Joint Commission, and the entire alphabet soup of regulatory agencies are directing the how, what and where of medical practice to physicians. Doctors are being asked to conform to very rigid practice standards in the name of patient safety, move rapidly to an electronic health-record system or suffer financial consequences, adhere to insurers' guidelines for care in the name of quality, and reduce their hospital costs and length of stay.
And this is before implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which has the potential to alter individual physician practice more than any federal law to date. With more than 660,000 physicians practicing in 2008 and projections that this number will exceed 800,000 by 2018, the ever-expanding workforce will be asked to dramatically change its practice patterns in the next decade and beyond.
It is not a secret that the physician profession as a whole is a difficult one to lead; many physicians roll their eyes at the concepts of "compliance" or "readiness" for regulators. There are many reasons why physicians tend to be stalwart and fail to follow the demands of regulators, hospital administrators and organized medical leadership. In this two-part article, we will look at the fundamental issues that are crucial in the process of implementing change in the physician workforce. If leadership fails to understand the eight crucial concepts listed below, then they risk alienating an extremely large, highly empowered group of professionals critical to the delivery of healthcare in this country. Moreover, it is critical that the relationship between healthcare executives and physicians be synergistic to facilitate the ever-changing and soon-to-be highly regulated healthcare system.