How has the federal health-reform law changed your care?

Despite the controversy that continues to surround the Patient Protection and Affordable Act five years after its passage, it has probably changed the way your health care is delivered as it drives new models of payment, forces providers to approach care differently, and changes how health care is evaluated, Kavita Patel and Domitilla Masi report for the Brookings Institution.

Here are five ways the authors say that your health care might be different than it was five years ago because of the reform law:

Your physician might be part of a patient care team. New payment models in the ACA encourage an interdisciplinary team-based approach, which evidence shows “can lead to higher quality care and better health outcomes for patient.” This approach allows the physician to spend more time diagnosing and devising a treatment plan, while the patient may spend more time interacting with non-physician staff for support care.

Prevention and wellness are more important than ever. The ACA requires health plans to cover all preventive screenings, immunizations and well visits for women at no cost, as part of the minimum benefits required in order for health-insurance plans to participate in exchanges like Kynect. The new payment models also pay physicians who work toward keeping their patients healthy, instead of just treating them when they are sick. ” Since the policy took effect in September 2010 it is estimated that an additional 76 million people now receive preventive care,” the authors write.

You may have better access to care on evenings and weekends. New payment models are driving this change as practices are often required to offer extended hours to decrease the overuse of emergency departments. Many offices now offer clinical advice around the clock with a clinician who has immediate access to their medical records.

Chances are your health information is being stored in an electronic health record, not a paper file. A separate law encouraged the use of EHRs, but “participation in the new ACA-promoted delivery models is practically impossible” without them. And while EHRs can be used to greatly improve patient care, not all EHRs are created equal and it will take time before patients see seamless integration and exchange between different doctors and settings in “real-time”.

You can access care remotely, wherever you are. Doctors are using mobile technology and tele-health in rural and remote areas to provide more efficient care to patients. Insurance companies and employers are beginning to recognize this mode of treatment not only as a way to save money, but to also provide timely access to care, that does not involve the emergency room.

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