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Will health IT be cornerstone of concierge medicine?

While the health insurance marketplace sorts itself out post-ACA, can the health IT-savvy concierge model of medicine save the independent physician?

According to statistics published by Accenture, the number of independent physicians went from 57% to 39% from 2000 to 2012, and that number is likely to continue to decrease in 2013. Amid that decline, a new model of practice is on the rise with independent physicians who may be growing discontented with uncertainties in reimbursements: the concierge model.

Concierge medicine is the practice model in which physicians can avoid reliance on government or commercial payers. They can rely on self-paying patients or can be subscription-fee based. Concierge practices allow physicians to spend more time with their patients while not being distracted by the constant pressure to see as many patients as possible.

Without some of the regulatory requirements and without such complex billing needs, the data systems these practices use may not need to be as complicated as those seen in today's typical independent physician's practice. Though this may make it seem as though the technology requirements for concierge medicine are simpler, we can quickly see that it's far from the reality.

The majority of concierge physicians visit patients in their homes and are available to care for them around the clock. This means patient records must be available 24/7, and the record systems must support mobility. Constant connectivity isn't needed for many independent physicians today; in most cases, the only time they need to access a chart remotely would be to call in prescriptions or complete SOAP notes on past visits. Ideally, concierge physicians closely servicing patients would benefit from mHealth applications that provide quick and easy access to health information.

The health IT platform these emerging practices need will likely be somewhat different from the current IT environment. It will be less dependent on complex systems and more focused on chronic disease management. It will be mobile- and user-friendly, cloud-based and HIE-connected. Upgrades in these areas would provide the greatest benefits for independent physicians.

Reda Chouffani is vice president of development with Biz Technology Solutions Inc., which provides software design, development and deployment services for the health care industry. Let us know what you think about the story; email or contact @SearchHealthIT on Twitter.

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