The health care system in the United States is being transformed. There is a convergence of the Affordable Care Act, rapid consolidation in hospital systems, more physicians opting for employment rather than going into private practice, new and uncertain payment mechanisms, increases in reporting quality outcome measures, and the use of electronic health records. At the same time, physician income is static or declining, workloads have increased and, in general, all too many physicians complain of interference in what we most prefer to do—take care of patients.
Although these changes affect all physicians, psychiatrists face specific challenges as they look to maintain or modify their current practices or choose new forms of practice. All this while funding for mental health services is shrinking. On the bright side is that with the Affordable Care Act and previously passed legislation for mental health parity, more than 60 million Americans now have better coverage for mental health services.
Recognizing these changes and trying to understand and adapt to them is the focus of this Special Report and this month’s CME activity. The articles in this collection can help you explore new ways of expanding your practice. They offer the opportunity for you to:
• Consider how best to do disability evaluations
• Better understand what kinds of fee arrangements work
• Consider models for working more effectively with primary care physicians
• Understand how Maintenance of Certification works and what you need to do to keep up-to-date
• Recognize when you are burning out—and how to deal with the problem
These topics provide a broad picture of the issues psychiatrists face as they take a clear-eyed look at the opportunities and challenges in the emerging health care system. The articles provide a starting point from which to consider new ways of practicing while maintaining a work-life balance. Rather than shying away from the challenges and hurdles ahead, you may want to mine these articles as a source of inspiration for improving your practice and taking advantage of new opportunities.
Dr Lazarus is a board-certified psychiatrist in private practice in Denver. He reports no conflicts of interest concerning the subject matter of this Special Report.