More than 8 million Americans have signed up for health insurance thanks to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Significantly increasing access to care, the 4-year-old healthcare reform law also creates incentives for providers to reorganize the delivery of healthcare.
The ACA has promoted the growth of accountable care organizations. Where successful, ACOs have the potential to bend the cost curve and improve quality. They are taking many forms, with some led by large multispecialty group practices and others by vertically integrated hospital systems with cadres of employed physicians.
Physicians will always remain central to patient care. Yet the ACA challenges the traditionally, if not fiercely, independent practice of medicine. The 21st-century physician is increasingly employed by a large provider organization with accountability to management, subject to standardized treatment protocols and required to interact with complex electronic health records.
Just how physicians will transform medical care in this new environment engenders much conversation, as was recently demonstrated at a healthcare management symposium held last month at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management on “The Future of the Physician.”
Health industry leaders offered their perspectives on the ACA's impact on the business of healthcare. Among the distinguished speakers, presidential adviser Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel provided several provocative predictions, ranging from the end of employer-sponsored health insurance to the closure of 1,000 hospitals. Dr. Ardis Dee Hoven, then-president of the American Medical Association, shared strategies physician groups are using to reduce the economic and social burden of chronic diseases.