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Could High Deductible Plans Save Small Practices?

Posted on October 8, 2013 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I’ve had a number of really interesting conversations with EHR vendors around the future of small practices in healthcare. In fact, many EHR vendors are focusing their marketing efforts around saving the small practice (more on that in a future post). Although, one topic that’s come up multiple times recently is how the new high deductible plans might be a tremendous opportunity for small practices.

To give credit where credit is due, I first heard this idea from Dr. Tom Giannulli (Check out this Google Hangout I did with Dr. Tom), CMIO of Kareo.

The core concept I took from talking with Dr. Tom and have since morphed with other viewpoints is that patients with high deductible plans can be more selective about who they visit for their care. This presents an opportunity for small physician practices to provide a personalized service to those patients that a large group practice or hospital owned system can’t or won’t provide.

Of course, at the core of this question is whether the small practice does offer a more personalized service than a large group practice. There are many arguments to be made that a small practice can offer a better service. In some ways it’s the eternal battle between mom and pop vs big company. We all love the idea of mom and pop locations that know are name and know our needs. In many ways small practices can provide this same level of service and relationship which is hard to create in a large group practice that’s ruled by numbers.

However, I think one challenge to this idea is that large groups could provide some services which small practices can’t or won’t provide as well. Of course, this assumes that they aren’t too distracted and immovable to actually implement change. I expect that we’ll see some patient facing services that do much better in a large group practice and that would be nearly impossible in a small practice. For example, once telehealth visits become popular, a large group practice could implement a 24×7 telehealth service for patients with emergent needs. A small practice couldn’t do this (although, they could partner with someone to offer something close).

The point is that the battle for these high deductible patients is just beginning. I usually like to put my money on the faster, more nimble organization. The problem is that many small practices aren’t that nimble. In fact, healthcare isn’t nimble (see Mandi’s post today about Inflicting Agile on the Waterfall World of Healthcare). Although, small practice can be nimble if they chose to do so.

Coming full circle, does this present an opportunity for EHR vendors? Can the small practice focused EHR vendors offer a set of features to small practices that enable them to offer a more personalized service to patients? I think there is this opportunity starting with features as simple as e-communication with the clinic, online payments, and personalized care. The real challenge for these EHR vendors is how to balance customer service focused features that patients will love against the onslaught of government regulations which bog down their development teams.

March Madness and the EHR Vendor Shakeout

Posted on March 29, 2013 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I’m not sure how many of my readers love March Madness as much as I do. I just love the emotion and the all day experience of March Madness. Unfortunately there haven’t been quite as many last minute buzzer beaters for the win as there have been in years past, but I still love the emotions of the games. These young kids have worked almost their entire life for this moment. I love to see the raw emotions from both teams.

As I think about March Madness, I couldn’t help but think about the EHR Madness we’re experiencing right now. We don’t have 68 teams in the EHR tournament. Instead, there are more like 300+ EHR vendors. In fact, in just the last week or two I’ve had two EHR vendors I’d never heard of contact me. Yes, we’ve seen some EHR software put out to pasture, but we still have a long ways to go before the EHR market really shakes itself out.

The nice thing for EHR vendors is that unlike the NCAA tournament which only has one winner, the EHR world is likely going to have many many successful companies. First, because many EHR vendors will likely get acquired by larger EHR vendors. Second, because it’s fair to say that the EHR world is going to be a heterogeneous environment. There won’t be one EHR to rule them all (although some EHR vendors still think they might get there).

Which type of vendors am I putting my money on in the EHR battle?

While many EHR vendors might win some short term battles, I think the big EHR winners are going to be those who end up battling through the mess of regulation while still having a laser focus on the impact to doctors. The most expensive employee in every healthcare institution is the doctors. EHR software that takes these high paid doctors away from seeing patients is going to have a real challenge long term.

I’ve written about the EHR Backlash a number of times before. I think productivity is going to be at the core of the EHR backlash. I’m hopeful that EHR vendors are taking this idea to heart, but I also still see a very long road in front of us to reach EHR nirvana.

I’ve been digging into the idea of a Smart EMR lately. At the core of the idea is how to make a doctor more efficient at what they do while increasing the quality of care provided. That certainly stands in stark contrast to many of the other EHR initiatives we see out there today.