Implications of the ACA on Physicians' Practices

Implications of the ACA on Physicians' Practices

Attention: open in a new window. PDF | Print | E-mail

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) will result in an increase of over 30 million Americans getting health insurance over the next 10 years. What does that mean for small businesses and physician’s offices? The increase in insured patients means more money available to the healthcare system, higher employment rates in the healthcare industry and  expanded adoption of healthcare IT processes.

Companies with fewer than 25 employees that currently provide them with health insurance will qualify for tax credits to offset the cost of insurance by up to 35% (25% for non-profits). The tax credit will increase to 50% (35% for non-profits)  in 2014 making it more affordable to offer insurance.

The increase of insured patients can only mean more work for hospitals and physicians’ offices everywhere. Any physicians’ offices or hospitals that don’t already have an EMR system will need to adopt one and customize it to fit their needs, preferably before the 2014 deadline. Being able to depend on an electronic system to track all of the patient data will help physicians manage increased patient volume better and not hurt the quality of the service they are providing.

The ACA also offers incentives to help expand the number of primary care doctors, nurses and physicians assistants. As of 2010, the ACA has increased funding for scholarships and loan repayments for doctors and nurses, especially in underserved areas of the country that have  significant staff shortages. More resources are also being given to medical schools to train physicians. The law also includes new funding to build and expand services in community centers in rural areas. Over 68% of medically underserved communities are in rural areas. The law will provide increased payments in order to retain and attract more healthcare professionals. Whether it’s a privately owned physician's office or a hospital in a rural area, additional funding should increase the number of primary care physicians to help offset the increase in patients.

Last but not least, adopting and expanding IT in healthcare will be a major part of the changes to come. The Affordable Care Act recommends the development of a more efficient system for patients to select their insurance coverage and primary care providers. The ACA also attempts to push all hospitals, physicians offices and other healthcare providers to adopt EMR systems in order to develop the transparent exchange of data, not only between hospitals, but also across states.

With the technology available in other industries such as the airlines and hotels, consumers have grown accustomed to certain privileges such as online access to their own personal own personal account information and history and the ability customize their experience with technology such as client portals and mobile applications. Healthcare should offer those same privileges. Some healthcare providers are starting to move in that direction.  For example, the HITECH ACT (Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act)  provides incentives to improve technology within the healthcare industry.

The Affordable Care Act will restructure the healthcare industry in many ways. Insurance companies will be forced to provide coverage for all Americans and hospitals and physicians will have a large increase in patients. Inevitably the technology will have to evolve to accommodate the changes and cater to the most important player, the patient!

~ Zoraida Lara