This week as I slowly recover from the #HIMSSHaze that sets in after spending a week with 41,000 of your closest friends and 1300+ vendors, I’m taking a second to think about how the small physician practice fits into the future of healthcare IT that was presented at HIMSS 2016.
As the graphic at the bottom of this post shows, just over 40% of attendees at HIMSS are providers. Of course, provider is a pretty broad term and that has to also be paired with the other number on that chart that 30.5% of attendees are part of the C-Suite. Even scarier is that only 2.2% of HIMSS registrations identified themselves as clinicians.
Those who read this blog regularly likely remember that I already wrote about physicians and patients missing at HIMSS. These numbers seem to prove this out. It’s unfortunate, because that means that the physician voice is largely going to be missing in many of the conversations that happen at a show like HIMSS.
With this in mind, it’s not surprising that I think the future for the small practice is on shaky ground. Many of the solutions presented at HIMSS are going to be hard for a small practice to afford. At some point these health IT solutions will be so good that they’ll become the standard of care. Once that happens, where does that leave the small practice provider who can’t afford these high tech solutions?
Considering many small practices aren’t joining in these conversations, I think it’s going to leave many small practices up a creek without a paddle. No doubt there’s a large portion of the physician population that are betting that retirement will come before this becomes a reality. Others probably think that the worst that could happen is that they’ll have to work for a large organization.
Despite this rather negative outlook on the future of small practices, there is some hope. When you look at the work that Farzad Mostashari is doing at Aledade to make accountable care and valuable based reimbursement available to the small practices you can see a future where small practices can survive even in this changing reimbursement landscape.
I think there are two models that I see emerging to allow small practices to keep some autonomy and survive in this changing healthcare world. First, small practices have to join together with other small practices to be able to create a large enough entity to be able to share in the costs associated with this future technology and to be able to compete with much larger hospital systems. Second, we need organizations like Aledade that help small practices survive by spreading their resources across a diverse group of small practices.
There is strength in numbers. So, whether the small practices form together themselves or whether health IT vendors essentially create a network of small practices, either option requires small practices to combine their efforts in order to survive. It reminds me of this clip from the film Finding Nemo. Small practices need to start “Swimming Together!”
Here’s a look at the registration numbers for HIMSS 2016: