As we close out 2019, it’s time for our take on what might happen in the surgical practice space in the coming year. There’s likely to be fewer, but bigger practices, software will become better integrated and hospitals might just be changing who gets to work on site. Read on to see our top predictions for the coming year.
1. The rise of the mega practice
Bigger isn’t always better, but for surgical practices at least, there’s something to be said for strength in numbers. The truth is, it’s difficult for smaller practices to, well, practice these days. That’s because small, independent practices lack the buying power of bigger entities. Merging with other practices gives smaller surgical practices a larger presence and increased buying power to negotiate reimbursements and block time from hospitals, to purchase more expensive resources or equipment and to share ancillary services.
2. MSO buyouts will lead to greater efficiency
Speaking of strength in numbers, MSOs (management services organizations) are changing the way practices operate. They’re buying out or acquiring surgical practices to leverage the financial and operational strengths of a united front of practices. They’re also centralizing processes, which is helping to create more efficient practices. One way they’re doing this is by turning to specialized technology, such as Surgimate, to do things in the most logical and cost-effective way possible.
3. Integration of software applications will be even more critical
Sticking with technology – healthcare executives, just like the rest of us, are becoming more tech savvy and are demanding a lot more from the software they use. That’s especially true when it comes to integration. It’s a sad truth for older generations of software, but any solutions that stand alone and don’t offer data mobility will lose out to software that does. Even then, providers can’t standstill. They have to make sure their tech provides more integrations to reduce duplicated data entry and ensure a more homogenous flow of information between systems and provide a seamless data exchange. So expect APIs so become more robust and efficient (at least we hope!)
4. Hospitals building more ORs and moving back-office staff off-site
Here’s a shocker: operating rooms are big business for hospitals, generating 40% of revenue. Okay, it’s not really shocking and it doesn’t take a hospital manager to work out that the more real estate dedicated to operating rooms, the more money the hospital will generate. Given that OR rooms are more in demand thanks to a jump in numbers of ops, it’s hardly surprising hospitals are looking to turn as much available space as possible into operating facilities. And if none of that space is available, they’re all for kicking out those people who don’t need to be on the hospital premises to somewhere less costly. That’s why more and more back-office staff are being shifted from prime real estate to remote locations, and the surgeons are taking over.
The big question is if surgical practices will emulate hospitals. The possibility of only keeping the staff who are patient-facing and need to be close by and thereby moving other departments to a more remote/less expensive location is one we’ll likely see mooted in 2020.
5. More surgeons will turn to telehealth
We wrote about the rise of telehealth last year, but this is one trend that’s building and building. According to Forrester, in 2020, one out of every 25 outpatient visits will be done virtually. Since we can do everything from our phones – controlling the thermostat, answering the doorbell and pretty much everything else, it makes sense that in this “don’t make me leave my house if I don’t have to,” era, patients are more open to using their smartphones to get medical care. And it’s not just the “young folk” who are seeing their docs online, telehealth is a boon for an aging population who no longer have to voyage across town to their medical appointment. That’s especially important post-op when just getting out of bed can be a real challenge.
6. Surgeon burnout will continue
It’s not all good news heading into 2020. While telehealth is making certain areas of care easier, there’s no denying physicians are burning out. Big time. According to a Medscape study 44% of physicians report burnout with 11% saying they were “colloquially depressed.” While the study didn’t provide separate numbers for surgeons, it’s inevitable they are suffering too. The top three causes were too many bureaucratic tasks topped the list of contributors (59%), spending too much time at work (34%) and increasing computerization (32%). With general surgeons pulling the longest hours of all docs, it’s not too hard to see why burnout is on the rise.
While increased computerization is a major cause of burnout, used properly it could also be a way to prevent it. Using the right sort of apps, such as the Surgimate app or patient communication apps – could save them time rather than create yet more work. Likewise, hospitals and surgical practices taking on more scribes and assistants would free up surgeons from a mountain of administrative work, leaving them the freedom to focus on what they do best – healing people.
We look forward to seeing how 2020 plays out. Until then, wishing you a very happy New Year.