2012 second quarter figures show patients returning to primary care

A brief research note sent from the desk of Credit Suisse investment analyst Charles Boorady bears sizable tidings for physician practices across the United States. According to the memo, doctors’ offices have been fielding a 4.8 percent increase in patient visit volume for the second quarter of 2012, a very different tale from last year’s notice, which spoke of an 8.9 percent decline.

Boorady’s figures — arrived at via IMS Health research and Credit Suisse estimates — factor on behalf of a paradigm shift in healthcare insurance qualifications, experts believe. And it’s not only the industry numbers tapping out the cadence to what Americans hope to be the recession’s final lament — physicians themselves are also recognizing the rise in tempo firsthand as MIA patients return to MD offices for the overture to a difficult economic score.

As steep co-pays gave way to new insurance legislation, David Hess, MD, found that his client girth was beginning to expand once again. “The majority of people are feeling like the choke hold is off a little bit,” he told amednews.

The far-blasting horns of the Gallup polls also sounded results as handsome as brass, finding that the number of Americans who could afford healthcare in conjunction with other necessities was up to 80.9 percent in March, a far cry from the 77.7 percent reported in late 2008 when the recession first hit. Truven Health Analytics confirmed that patient visits to family doctors, internists, ob-gyns and pediatricians rose yet again in May and June, easing the tone further for struggling private practices.

Other medical officials find the upswing is more than just a recession rebound; it’s partially reliant upon new primary care support stemming from employer, insurer and government bodies. Insurers in particular have put more emphasis on appropriate uses of healthcare while the Affordable Care Act pushes for preventative care services to require no out-of-pocket expenses budgeted by the patient. Employer-opted-for, high-deductible plans also play a large role, according to Raymond Fabius, MD, chief medical officer for Truven Health Analytics.

“The uptake in both the more traditional PPO with differential co-pays and then the uptick of high-deductible health plans has started to, I believe, achieve a turning point. That’s what I think we’re seeing,” Fabius said.

Glen Stream, MD, a family physician in Spokane, Wash., and president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, was hesitant to apply any kind of longevity to the emerging uptick, claiming it was far too early to tell whether the trend will continue on as such. Nevertheless, his expectations are high for the long-term as he believes an aging population means the beginning of health coverage guarantees, mandates and subsidies for 2014 and thus, more visits to local physicians.    

Analyses aside, Hess is relishing in the patient return and the diminishing strain.

“When private insurance patients start coming back in, then you can see that in your numbers,” he said. “Things are easing up.”

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