Doctor Disability: Expanded Hours Linked to Lower Health Costs
Primary care physicians traditionally have a very set schedule; Monday through Friday, nine to five, five days a week. Some may be on call through the weekend, but most likely patients visit the emergency room or urgent care center if they need medical attention on a night or weekend. And those visits can rack up healthcare costs. This post is brought to you by Doctor Disability.
According to a study in the September/October Annals of Medicine, providing patients with evening and weekend appointments with their usual doctors can reduce annual medical expenses overall. The authors suspected that the costs were lower because extended access led to more scrupulous use of health care resources. Instead of going to the emergency department, urgent care center, or retail clinic, they were able to see their primary physician. By going to their primary doctors, they on average received fewer tests, prescriptions, and other services, which reduce medical expenditures overall.
However, the implementation of after-hours care requires significant management on the physician part. It can require more flexible schedules, and being available to patients on nights and weekends. Some insurers pay primary care physicians to provide medical home services in hopes that it will rein in escalating health care costs.
Ultimately, physicians will have to decide if it is worth it to them. It doesn’t necessarily mean that private practices have to hire more primary care physicians, but it would require them to rearrange schedules. Overall, the research suggests that it would reduce referrals to emergency departments and urgent care centers.
As a medical professional, what is your opinion about extending primary care hours? Do you think it will help reduce expenditures or creates a strain on the physician’s time? We’d love to hear from you.
Protecting your income with individual disability insurance can provide lifestyle protection for you and your family, meaning you can feel more in control of your future; no matter how many hours you work each week. Doctor Disability provides disability insurance for physicians and dentists. Contact us today for more information.
Source: American Medical News