As all doctors know, maintaining up-to-date proficiency in patient care skills and medical scientific developments is essential. Medical science typically advances in a forward direction, utilizing new diagnostic tools and treatment measures that improve patient outcomes and ameliorate shortcomings in disease care. Everyone agrees that better patient outcomes is a good thing. But when it comes to healthcare policy and healthcare delivery changes, not everyone agrees about what 'a good outcome' means. This is one of the greatest challenges for modern physicians. The challenge of staying up to date with healthcare policies and regulations, while maintaining a high quality clinical practice.
Staying up to date on healthcare delivery
Healthcare system and organizational changes develop quite differently than scientific advancements, without the advantage of double blind controlled studies and prospective trials. Shifts in healthcare delivery systems and economic changes in healthcare occur without the same rigorous scientific standards that are required for validation of patient care techniques. These administrative modifications are generally applied to all patients in an often awkward 'one size fits all' method without the option of individual customization that is the cornerstone of clinical treatment.
Examples of a few relatively new healthcare delivery methods and organizational developments include the patient centered medical home, medical tourism, health insurance mandates, telemedicine, and concierge care. Doctors need to stay on top of medical innovation to deliver the best care. But they also must stay on top of these economic and logistic changes in order to survive professionally.
Are healthcare 'changes' just short-lived trends or are they here to stay?
How can a physician determine if a new administrative or health care delivery system development is a fleeting trend that will fizzle, or if it is really an emerging health system enhancement that is here to stay? How much time should a physician devote to adapting to proposed regulations that may lose favor?
What is the risk of underestimating the impact of impending rules and subsequently finding oneself behind the eight ball?
Young doctors are the barometer of healthcare
A good rule of thumb is to look at young physicians in training and to listen to what they say about how they view the new changes in health care delivery.
Young physicians and medical students of this generation have a general tendency to reject counterproductive circumstances as an immutable reality 'just because that is how it is done.'
Young physicians know they have professional options and will undeniably alter the supply and demand balance of the physician workforce in a manner that is transparent and fair. The response of young physicians to proposed developments in health care delivery serves as a good barometer of the survival of these developments. If young doctors will not put up with something an administrator wants to shove down their throats- then the 'something' (or the administrator) will not last.
Healthcare changes that are here to stay
Examples of relatively recent changes that overwhelmingly appear to have staying power include hospitalist inpatient coverage and electronic medical records documentation. Both suit the frame of mind of young modern physicians and both are quite different than traditional approaches. Future developments will likewise either enjoy widespread acceptance or will go away based on a thumbs up or thumbs down response from young physicians.