Declining pay and 3 other trends to watch, per 1 healthcare leader

There are big changes happening in the healthcare industry in 2024, from the growing popularity of artificial intelligence to increased consolidation among practices nationwide. 

Linda Lee, MD, medical director of endoscopy at Brigham and Women's Hospital and an associate professor at Harvard Medical School, both based in Boston, shared with Becker's four of the biggest trends she is watching in healthcare. 

Dr. Lee: The big trends to pay attention to in gastroenterology and healthcare overall include the following:

1. The impact of artificial intelligence: While everyone is obsessively focused on AI, how it will help us care for our patients more effectively and efficiently remains to be seen. There are many different companies and algorithms, and it is uncertain which will be most helpful in addition to considering legal ramifications when using AI to assist providers with clinical care. AI has potential for enormous positive impact but needs to be assessed and rolled out thoughtfully.

2. Healthcare reimbursements: It's interesting that while [the cost of] nearly everything we pay for has increased, physician reimbursement continues to decline. The physicians are caught in the middle with CMS and private insurances continually cutting our reimbursements for the same work, actually often more work, we're doing due to the additional onerous burden of electronic medical records while being faced with increased costs of equipment and labor. In any other business, this complete imbalance of increased cost with decreased revenue would never be tolerated, yet somehow this is acceptable in healthcare.

3. Healthcare consolidation: With rising costs and decreased reimbursements, hospitals and practices continue to merge to save costs and streamline care. The days of the solo/small group practices seem to be rapidly vanishing as mega-group practices sprout up, which have their positives and negatives. A subset of consolidation is private equity firms buying into healthcare. This trend is certainly concerning due to obvious conflicts of interest between for-profit ventures and the patients they are purportedly helping. The glaring example of Steward Healthcare’s demise with its leaders making millions is tragic if not predictable. Unfortunately, the ones left vulnerable are the most underserved of our population.

4. Unionization: While nurses and other staff are often members of unions, this is not part of the culture for physicians. However, many training programs have unionized, and it seems working physicians may be starting to follow this trend. This will be interesting to witness, especially with increasing numbers of physicians becoming employees of large systems and perhaps feeling that they have no other recourse to protect themselves.

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