Telehealth, value-based care among top practice priorities of 2016

The standout news for physicians in 2015 was the historic repeal of Medicare's sustainable growth rate formula. Here are our predictions for the most pressing issues for physician practices in 2016.

  • Value-based care. One of the foremost areas for physicians and practices to stay informed about in the coming year is how the shift away from fee-for-service toward value-based payments will manifest, Reid Blackwelder, M.D., immediate past president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, told FiercePracticeManagement in an exclusive interview. As of now, many physicians are living in both worlds, but the transition will accelerate when the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) takes effect in 2017. Now is the time for practices to decide which of the two tracks created under the law they will pursue, even though several unknowns, including implications around Meaningful Use, remain.
  • Telehealth. Now that reimbursement hurdles have been reduced and patient demand for convenience has surged, telehealth may be at a tipping point--and practices that don't embrace it may be at a competitive disadvantage. Leading experts are making similar predictions. "The doctor's office of the future is going to be largely virtual. And rather than just video chats ... there will be meaningful data exchanged between parties," Eric Topol, M.D., director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute, said in a recent interview with the University of Toronto's Rotman Management Magazine.
  • Physician wellness. Physician burnout now afflicts more than half of the workforce, and it's more critical than ever for practice leaders and physicians to counterbalance the toll of their work with proactive efforts surrounding clinician wellness, otherwise known as the Quadruple Aim.
  • Alternative practice models. One of the many ways physicians are finding empowerment in the challenging field of medicine is to buck the status quo. A small but passionate cadre of medical professionals report they have reclaimed their joy in medicine by reinventing their practices in all sorts of ways, including direct care, house calls, telemedicine and other unique models. As physicians explore these alternatives, they should be aware of the benefits, risks and ethics surrounding their choices.
  • Opioid abuse and addiction. More than two-thirds (69 percent) of physicians responding to a recent survey report that they've reduced the number of prescriptions they've written for opioid painkillers in recent years, but that is just a small factor in a complex problem. The No. 1 item physicians need to address this crisis is more education about how and when to prescribe opioids--and more importantly, how to talk to patients about them and have them be satisfied with alternatives, Michael W. Smith, M.D., medical director and chief medical editor at WebMD, told FiercePracticeManagement in an exclusive interview.