Halting the rise of healthcare costs: Physician panel presents five solutions

October 21, 2013

A panel of 18 physicians spent months discussing ways to curb the unsustainable growth of healthcare costs in the United States.

What ideas do physicians have to curb the unsustainable rise of healthcare costs in the United States?

A panel of 18 physicians took part in an effort by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to reach consensus on solutions to help halt the rise of healthcare expenses.

Getting buy-in from physicians on any new payment model is most important. Not including that perspective would be “shortsighted and perilous,” according to a report on the panel’s work.

“All physician panelists agreed that any new payment systems must be shaped in large part by physicians’ own unique perspectives and clinical expertise,” the report reads. “This is vital … in order for physicians to advocate for and ultimately embrace any changes.

The panel agreed on five points about slowing healthcare spending:

1.     Payment models must be evidence-based, physician-endorsed, and thoroughly tested.

Panelists say physicians must have a “key role” in building new payment models. They also argued that The Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), as the largest payer in the healthcare system, must take the lead to pilot new payment models.

2.Protecting and creating financial incentives is critical to broad physician buy-in.

Panelists say physicians are concerned that new payment models will reduce their income by as much as 20% to 30%. “Primary care physicians in the group are particularly concerned about income reductions, since they already have lower incomes than most specialties.

3.Meaningful consumer engagement requires better communication and guidance from physicians, more willingness from consumers, and greater investments in prevention.

While some members would like to see incentives for providers discussing costs with patients, many of the panelists were skeptical that patients could “effectively digest and utilize” information about cost and treatment options. Also, encouraging widespread changes in patient behavior when it comes to prevention and wellness is critical to alleviating costs.

4.Improving quality and reducing cost requires a stronger health information technology infrastructure.

The panelists agreed that greater investment in health IT was need by both payers and providers. Still, most panelists remained cautious about EHR implementation because of cost and workplace disruption.

5.Major changes in education and practice are needed to help reduce costs.

How we train physicians must change, the panelists agreed. “Physician members are deeply concerned about the paucity of medical education related to health care costs, and encourage broad efforts to better educate both practicing and training physicians on the relative costs of their clinical decision-making.”

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is a philanthropic organization that focuses on health and health care issues facing the United States.

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