Article Date: 7/1/2010

It's Time To Prepare For Healthcare Reform
o.d. to o.d.

It's Time To Prepare For Healthcare Reform

Unless you think the world will end with the Mayans in 2012, you'll need to prepare for changes to the healthcare system.

BY WALTER D. WEST, O.D., F.A.A.O.
Chief Optometric Editor

Much has been written about the changes that healthcare reform will bring to optometry. Most of the discussion centers on access to patients, the mandate that requires vision care for children to be included in the program, the increased utilization by the "baby boomers" and the increased demand for more medically related care. Great.

So now what are we doing to get ready for all this increased demand? Are we strategically planning for how we can increase the capacity of our practices through changes in facilities, training staff, delegating more clinical data gathering, or evaluating and enhancing the way we use our time? Have we streamlined the process by which patients flow through our offices? If not, demand won't matter, because the throughput for our practices will remain much the same — regardless of the opportunity to care for more patients.

Why worry? Here's why

Of course, some will ask, "Why should I worry about all that stuff now?" If you subscribe to the theory that the Mayans are going to get us in December 2012, then don't worry about it, not a bit (no offense to Mayan readers). On the other hand, if you believe there will be a world after December 23, 2012, tune in.

It's just my opinion, but the delivery model for eye care in the future will not look like it does now, not for the successful, profitable practice. To support my position, I suggest that the delivery model for eye care doesn't look the same now as it did in the past. The reason? Our practices are shaped, or should be, by the consumer (patient). The consumer's demand for performance, price/value, convenience and location has changed the delivery model for eye care and will continue to do so.

Reform affects all providers

Likewise, healthcare reform will change what is delivered. Providers, not just doctors, in every area of healthcare, will be affected by the demand not only for their services, but that their services be delivered less expensively and more efficiently. Incentives for practitioners of all healthcare entities will be based on not how many diagnostic tests can be performed, but rather how few. Incentives for employers who pay healthcare premiums will be based on how efficiently they drive their employees to primarycare entry points, rather than allowing them to enter the healthcare system through the emergency room or the office of a specialist.

Last but not least, the healthcare insurance companies/administrators will be incentivized based on how well their system contains costs for the government. Get ready for "Healthcare Lite" — less care for patients and less compensation for the healthcare providers, and of course, more compensation for those poor, overworked and misunderstood health insurance companies that only try to help the government look out for us all.

Preparing for the future

The answer as to how you can begin preparing your practice for the post-Mayan healthcare mayhem? It's back to basics. Streamline your practice, delegate data gathering to trained staff, enhance convenience of access to your patients through customer friendly hours and location, and market and advertise in your geographic market area that you are the best eyecare option. Wait a minute, that might even work now. OM



Optometric Management, Issue: July 2010