The healthcare delivery environment is ever evolving and has experienced rapid growth in the past few decades. These changes are reflected within rheumatology practices in how the rheumatology care team interacts with patients and how patients manage their care.
Much like a doctor diagnosing and treating a patient, physician administrators must also assess the inner workings of their practices and how those workings are directly affected by the health delivery macro environment.
With the entry of managed care in 1929 and the subsequent rise of medical insurance and reimbursement by third parties, a new air of consumerism entered the field of medical practice, shaking up the traditional patient–physician relationship. No longer did the care relationship only involve the physician and the patient, and no longer were physicians practicing in a time when the patients paid for their medical care, to the extent they were able.
In more recent years, the increased complexities that have been introduced by the expanding healthcare delivery team—including third-party payers and the large body of medical providers that are needed to address the expanding and diverse needs of a population with a longer life span—brought about new social and technological forces seeking to improve healthcare quality and safety, simplify its delivery, empower patients, and significantly reduce the cost of care.
Today, rheumatology practices are moving into the age of health information technology. With new technology comes the knowledge needed to support evidence-based care as well as new avenues for patients to become partners in their care. Emerging health information systems are establishing links between all stakeholders (including the patient, physicians and other members of the care team, pharmacists, and payers) through an intricate web of computer code to instantly translate the communication of patient data between various systems and applications, which allows for the delivery of relevant, user-specific, consistent, and meaningful data to all parties.
As rheumatology practices move toward the future of healthcare administration and delivery, practice administrators will continue to see increasing pressure to focus on the business of medicine, encouraging physicians to think as businessmen and women and patients to act as medical consumers, and this concept lends itself to a healthy and vibrant practice with more knowledgeable patients who are likely to take more personal responsibility for their care. However, it is the care and commitment of those rheumatologists and rheumatology health professionals providing services to patients that keeps the subspecialty of rheumatology a noble profession based on truly patient-centric care integrated with modern advancements rather than an industry supporting a medical assembly line.