Monday, March 25, 2013

Early Retirement?

There is some buzz about the possibility or probability of physicians retiring early due to unhappiness with PPACA (Obamacare). Bitching and whining is hardly new for physicians, and there are plenty of people wanting to put a bad spin on Obamacare.

So I have worked my way through a part of my national network; and have a decidedly non-scientific survey about the buzz.

Some possible trends:

The electronic medical records installation and networking is a major nightmare, with many older physicians resenting the cost and hating the input devices.

Many physicians believe their only financial sanctuary is a closer integration or even employment by a hospital or integrated network, and many are bitter about a forced marriage with possibly a dysfunction partner (physician relations with hospitals have always been tense at best).

The rate of change or at least the ubiquitous talk about change (ACOs, bundling, extensive quality metrics) gets tiresome; death by meetings and memos.

The Medicare push to prevent hospital re-admissions has interfered with clinical judgment and put elderly patients at risk; ditto for earlier discharges. Nursing home and hospice work is a tiresome pain in the butt.

The stock market is coming back, and with it physician 401(k) balances.

The physical health of older physicians is not optimal, 30 -  40 years of stress and sleep deprivation take a toll (consistent with my observations over the decades).

So, smoke or real fire? Time will tell

Making Odds

Making Odds

At the pace quickens I am setting odds on the potential success of various Obama initiatives.

Electronic medical records (networked) are a major success in 2014.        0%

Electronic medical records (networked) are a modest success by 2014.   30%

Electronic medical records (networked) are a major league fail.                70%

Health care exchanges work effectively after a brief shake down.              0%

Health care exchanges have a troubled first year but then gain ground.      40%

Health care exchanges work but are very troubled.                                   40%

Health care exchanges are a complete dud.                                                20%
I hope I am wrong.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Complexity Blogging

More Complexity Grumbling

I have made the point many times that if anything stops Obamacare it will be the inability to implement an extremely complicated program. Call it “Tom's Theory of Complexity.”

The feds have now published (link below) the draft application for financial assistance in health care exchanges and low income plans. Oh boy.

With attachments this could easily run 30 + pages, and of course someone is going to have to process this (there will be an online version). Having helped people with paperwork for nearly 40 years I can guarantee this will be intimidating and confusing to many people.

Complication is the enemy of implementation. Count on it.

PS: HR Block has already positioned itself as a likely fee-for-service form fill-in service. Somebody is going to profit here.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Could Obamacare Collapse?

How Obamacare Could Fail

One of my non-scientific methods of gauging the current state of the health care system is by the requests I receive for writing and editing.

For example, I have recently received four requests to write about failed electronic medical records systems (no surprise there).  Others include the progress of accountable care organizations (ACOs), the future economics of physician groups, compensation models for physicians, hospital/physician relations and new regulatory issues for nursing homes.

So all of this gets me thinking; what could happen to create a catastrophic failure of Obamacare?  My thoughts….

Accountable Care Organizations:  ACOs could fail to work as hoped by the feds, this could collapse the foundations of Obamacare

Failed integration efforts: hospitals and systems are integrating multiple services, creating much larger and much more complex organizations, not  all of them will work

Exchanges:  the shopping experience becomes a confusing mess (high probability IMHO)

Payment Innovations:  innovations such as fee bundling fail to be feasible

Employer meltdown:  employers engage in wholesale dumping to the exchanges (not impossible in such a weak economy)

So, what are the odds of catastrophic failure?  50% - 50% in my opinion.