March 02, 2013
1 min read

Doctor alliances, more efficient practices will survive Affordable Care Act

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ATLANTA – A number of mandates that are part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act are set to take effect Jan. 1, 2014, and optometrists should begin strategizing now, according to a speaker here at SECO.

Optometrists will have an opportunity to participate in Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), which will support coordination among a group of providers, Walter D. West, OD, FAAO, told attendees.

All of the physicians – including optometrists – in the ACO will be responsible for a specific population collectively, explained West, who is vice president of practice development for Vision Source.

Walter D. West, OD, FAAO

Walter D. West

“If one of the doctors doesn’t deliver the standard of care, it has the potential to impact you financially,” he said.

“Now we’re being held accountable for better health outcomes,” West continued, “for how well our patients comply and their results.”

West said that the Physicians Foundation Advisory Panel projects that independent, private practice settings will go away because physicians will be required to consolidate, both within and outside of their specialties.

“A general practitioner may share reception and treatment rooms with gynecology or orthopedics,” he said. “Facilities will have to be maximized, because that’s one of the greatest expenses as far as ACA is concerned.”

Doctors will have to align with large hospital and health systems; capital, administrative, technical, credentialing, regulatory and compliance resources will have to align, he said.

West recommended joining with colleagues. “You can be stronger as a group,” he said.

Focus on increased efficiency and patient flow, he said. Develop consistency and delegate to staff. Reduce operating expenses. Train staff to support you clinically.

“You will be paid to make decisions and recommendations and guarantee outcomes, not spin dials,” West said.

“We also have to equip our practices so there’s a shorter learning curve for employees and ensure consistency and integrity of data,” he continued. “And identify a resource for guidance from experts not just in optometry, but in health care in general. It will be groups of optometrists and ophthalmologists under the umbrella of the ACO. It’s not just individual competition anymore; its group/team competition. People with common interests, needs and foes must pull together and focus on the future.”

The course was sponsored by Vision Source through grants from Alcon and Essilor.