Throughout modern times, the government has regulated commerce, sometimes to the benefit to consumers, but more often, to the detriment of business operators. This unrelenting need to interfere in the mechanisms of industry has also compelled government to pass a long list of laws that undermine patient care. Lawmakers inevitably hear criticisms like healthcare is too expensive and manufacture one poorly conceived stopgap solution after another. In recent times, these include the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) which have imposed horrendously onerous responsibilities upon physicians in an effort to “improve” patient care and are driving them out of the profession en masse.
A key example of how misguided public policy is hampering physicians from performing their key healthcare responsibilities is the Affordable Care Act which was intended to provide the uninsured with access to medical services. Although millions of Americans now possess health insurance, the additional burdens on the strained healthcare system have actually diminished the overall quality. A greater patient load has forced many network physicians to limit the time spent with patients while extending the period patients must wait for an appointment. At the same time, many physicians will also have do more work for less compensation as Medicare and Medicaid payouts are on the decline.
One of the most highly touted benefits of ACA was its ability to rein in skyrocketing healthcare costs, and while it has helped soften the steep incline, it has not tackled the most important components of healthcare price escalation: medical technology products and tests. While much of America believes that insurance companies are the primary drivers of healthcare inflation, insurers actually operate with a minor profit margin between 3 and 5 percent. There is an immense amount of unnecessary expenditure on irrelevant tests, but which physicians must employ to limit exposure to potential malpractice suits. The ACA does little to mitigate the litigious environment that most medical organizations must now navigate.
The most despised governmental policy in recent years is not ACA, however, but HIPAA which mandates electronic health records (EHR). More solo physicians have cited the EHR mandate as the primary cause for abandoning their private practice. For the fortunate practices that have complied with the HIPAA regulations there are also additional headaches like maintaining interoperability with other major organizational systems, as well as ensuring patient information security—which is becoming an increasingly attractive target to many criminal elements. Finally, healthcare organizations must meet an evolving standard in order to comply with the HIPAA security requirements or fail their use audits.
The many flaws in the HIPAA law would potentially be acceptable if there was any benefit from the law for patients, but to date, there has been almost none. The law was intended to facilitate the flow of patient information from one healthcare provider to another, but has rarely lived up to its promise. The harsh reality is that the technology is not developed enough to take enormous and diverse patient data and convert it into readily accessible information. Instead, the law is diverting precious clinical time to digital recordkeeping. This is not only limiting the time available for patient care, but it is also dramatically reducing professional satisfaction among physicians, which is one more reason to leave a noble profession which once emphasized healing above paperwork.
CEO, Onyx M.D.
Disclaimer: Any personal views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent and are not intended to represent the views of the company or its employees.