Last year, hospitals and other corporate-owned entities overtook nearly 14 thousand independent practices nationwide. This influx in acquisitions is primarily attributed to the economic struggles independent practices were experiencing as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. New data indicates that nearly three-quarters of doctors in the U.S. now work for hospitals and large-scale health facilities, a number that is up from 69 percent a year ago.

The benefits that stem from independent practices include access to care in rural communities, lower care costs, and better patient experiences. However, for independent practices to thrive, it will largely depend on how well they can adapt and implement emerging technology to streamline practice operations and bring patients a better overall experience.

Provider burnout drives consolidation

Since the pandemic, many medical providers have faced severe burnout and strain, working around-the-clock hours under hazardous conditions. Consolidation is often forced by burnout and exhaustion of providers. Doctors went to school to provide care to patients. However, they become small business owners and face challenges of managing all operations, HR, IT, practice growth, reputation management, and revenue management.

With so many providers considering consolidation, the opportunity to receive fair and quality medical care from independent practices as opposed to large-scale hospital corporations is diminishing, dampening patient trust in the healthcare system.

The consumerization of healthcare

The consumerization of healthcare is a broad shift from the healthcare market to individual healthcare consumers, meaning individuals are asserting more influence over their medical and wellness care. Healthcare consumers want a convenient and digitally-enabled experience from the time they submit an inquiry to the treatment and subsequent follow-ups. Convenience and customized experiences drive consumer behavior. The pandemic accelerated the adoption of consumer-centric healthcare, starting with telehealth services.

Right now, the consumerization of healthcare is one of the biggest challenges, and opportunity providers face. By adopting digital tools and software, they can easily respond, putting the focus back on patient care. To do so, practices must be willing to embrace a new model with technology that delivers the digital experience that patients encounter every day across every other industry without slowing down providers and their staff.

Digital technology is key to a thriving practice

Daniel Spriggs, MD of Perdido Bay Medical Group and customer of Tebra, left a large medical group to start his practice in a rural community. As a small practice with four employees, implementing the right technology has been imperative in building an online presence to acquire new patients, streamlining administrative tasks that detract from patient care, and having the virtual tools to treat patients who cannot visit his practice in person.

“Independent practices are crucial to the healthcare ecosystem and providing accessible care to patients when and where they need it. As a provider, I want to focus on my patients, and by implementing the right technology that mimics my workflows, I have the resources I need to remain independent, so I can serve the patients who depend on me,” said Dr. Spriggs.

For practices implementing technology to meet consumer demands and provide a competitive edge, key considerations include:

  1. All-in-one Solutions: Often, providers end up with fragmented software solutions due to the complexity of the shopping experience. Disparate software solutions require duplicating workflows from scheduling and intake forms to clinical documentation and medical billing. By identifying each area of your practice that technology would benefit from, you can find the right solution to integrate into one platform. Moreover, the right solution will relieve staff from administrative tasks.
  2. Technology Partners: The right technology partner will provide support beyond the implementation process and evolve with the constantly changing healthcare system. As regulatory requirements often change and can significantly impact how you submit and receive reimbursements, your technology partner should provide software updates to account for such changes and provide the education you need on changing regulations.
  3. Patient First Focus: Technology for your practice should equally serve your patients and improve the experience and care they receive. Patients want digital touchpoints at every stage of their journey, from doctor discovery to payment and scheduling follow-ups. Ensure your technology stack serves your practice and your patient with an easy and streamlined experience.

When independent practices invest in the right technology, they will spend less time on operations and more time on personal, meaningful care. In addition, providers can restore work-life balance, reduce burnout, and focus on why they became doctors - to deliver care.

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Physicians Practice | August 9th, 2022

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