Technological Acumen Increasingly Vital to Physician Success

By: Katy Mena-Berkley
Sunday, May 1, 2016

Reinvention is the name of the game in medicine today, as expanded regulations force physicians to remain nimble in the face of constant change.

As just one example, within a few years, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services wants three-quarters of Medicare payments routed through payment models that place a premium on care that generates better quality and lower costs, Modern Healthcare noted in a recent article.

That and other rules, say experts, mean physicians must have a high level of business and technological savvy.

“The main challenge is maintaining a high-quality, reliable revenue stream in the face of healthcare documentation and coding requirements ...,” says Robert Robinson, MD, Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine at Southern Illinois University (SIU) School of Medicine. “Each physician has the ability to positively affect the financial stability of their practice. The best way to achieve that is by understanding your role in healthcare reimbursement and how healthcare quality affects reimbursement, and working to make sure the hard work you do as a physician is well-documented.”

Dr. Robinson leads a lecture series at SIU that focuses on topics including compensation, evaluation and management coding, medical documentation, and physician quality.

“We discuss in detail ... how to implement complex rules in real-world practice,” he says. “[Physicians] have to develop these skills to do well.”

The IT Factor

Critical to proper documentation and enhanced quality of care is fluency in information technology (IT), which has grown vastly more important since the introduction of EHRs. The benefits of acquiring that fluency are threefold, says Nir Menachemi, PhD, MPH, Professor and Department Chair in Health Policy and Management at Indiana University Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health.

“First, computers can help correlate disparate pieces of information and make complex information from multiple sources available to the decision-maker at the point of care,” Menachemi says. “Second, IT can help provide the latest, most cutting-edge information about a treatment or drug that may not yet be known to a provider. Lastly, IT can help reduce barriers to care and improve patient-centeredness and patient convenience.”

“Physicians who understand how IT plays a role in improving efficiencies and clinical outcomes — and why it is an essential tool for helping to keep individuals healthy — will have an advantage as healers and as business leaders.”
— Nir Menachemi, PhD, MPH, Professor and Department Chair in Health Policy and Management at Indiana University Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health

Developing these and other skills for success in the medical marketplace takes passion, says Philippa Kennealy, MD, MPH, CPCC, PCC, Founder and President of The Entrepreneurial MD, a California-based physician coaching business. However, she says, those aptitudes can be mastered informally and organically, as well as by obtaining an additional degree.

“Be creative and imaginative as you figure out how to gain new skills ...,” Dr. Kennealy says. “Join networks of people who are not just doctors. Find out how to mingle with people who do have business skills, and be OK with not knowing and with asking questions.”