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Healthcare News and Trends

Physician Trends to Watch in 2019

January 25, 2019

Physician Trends to Watch in 2019

By Jennifer Larson, contributor


No one can say definitively what’s going to happen with the practice of medicine this year. Yet industry experts expect some ongoing trends and other phenomena have the potential to affect how healthcare is provided both now and in the future. They will also affect how individual physicians go about their jobs.


Check out these healthcare trends, technology advances and disruptions that may change the way you work in 2019 and beyond.


8 healthcare trends to watch this year


  1. Burnout will continue to be a problem. Not surprisingly, experts forecast physician burnout as an ongoing problem in 2019. In fact, a new report from the Massachusetts Medical Society, the Massachusetts Health & Hospital Association, and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health calls it a “public health crisis.” The 2018 Survey of America’s Physicians, conducted by Merritt Hawkins on behalf of The Physicians Foundation, found that 78 percent of physicians sometimes, often or always have feelings of burnout. The burnout rate is higher for female physicians than for males; 84.8 percent vs. 74.1 percent. Burnout and job dissatisfaction can cause physicians to cut back on hours or get out of direct patient care altogether, which affects patient access and puts additional strain on clinicians who remain.

  2.  Doctors will join start-ups. Looking for something new—really new? This could be the year you join some of your colleagues in finding a start-up that could use your skills and education. Preventive medicine physician Sylvie Stacy, MD, MPH, has been watching as job postings for physicians with start-ups have grown, often in the digital health arena. “Since many of the technologies are so closely intertwined with healthcare delivery and disease management, there will be an increasing need for physicians,” she predicted.

    • More states will join the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact.  It just got easier to practice medicine in multiple states. Michigan became the 25th state to enact the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact (IMLC) on December 31, when the state’s governor signed the legislation. The District of Columbia and Guam also participate in the compact, bringing the total participants to 27. That number could grow again in 2019, as the Federation of State Medical Boards reports that Kentucky, New Mexico, and South Carolina are considering an initiative to join the compact.

      • Consolidations will continue. A growing number of physician practices have been sold to larger healthcare systems in recent years, and consolidations, mergers and acquisitions will continue in 2019. When this happens, some physicians may feel relieved to relinquish the burden of practice management, while others are less excited about losing their independence. “We are seeing many venture capital firms purchasing physician groups along with larger health systems,” said Shawn Yates, director of healthcare product management for Ontario Systems. “This will drive out the smaller physician groups and force them to change their focus and develop partnerships.”

        • More emphasis will be placed on interprofessional collaboration. Team-based care models aren’t going away. “With greater emphasis on holistic care known as patient-centered care for the last few years, it will be paramount going forward,” predicted Ankita Sagar, MD, MPH, a primary care physician with Northwell Health. (RELATED: 5 Things Doctors Can Learn from Nurses)

          • We’ll feel the Amazon and Apple effect. Keep an eye out for changes that may develop from Amazon’s entrance into the healthcare arena, Yates added. Amazon has already purchased an internet pharmacy, launched its own private label brand of OTC healthcare products called Basic Care, and collaborated with J.P. Morgan and Berkshire Hathaway to establish an employer health coalition. And watch for more innovations in mobile fitness apps and chronic disease management; Apple has hired about 50 physicians in recent months as the tech giant expands their reach into healthcare, too.

            • The ACA’s future hangs in the balance. In December 2018, a federal judge in Texas ruled that the Affordable Care Act was unconstitutional. But a group of attorneys general appealed the ruling, which could eventually send the landmark healthcare legislation to the Supreme Court again. The Texas judge has allowed the law to remain in effect while under appeal. “If the ACA loses its appeal, this could affect the care of millions of people around the country due to lack of protection for pre-existing conditions, coverage for basic healthcare and screening needs, and decreased funding for Medicaid plans,” said Sagar. “This would be practice-changing because as a physician caring for patients with Medicaid and complex illnesses, I see many patients requiring these protections.”

              • Telemedicine opportunities will expand. Last year, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) proposed adding more services to its list of Medicare-approved telehealth services for reimbursement. (Learn more about the five new Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) codes and other information included in the final version of the 2019 Physician Fee Schedule and Quality Payment Program.) CMS could do that again in 2019, which would enable providers to receive reimbursement for services using virtual technology. It’s easier to provide services via telemedicine if you’re getting paid to offer them.

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