Patients Came Back in Second Quarter

Physicians were busier  than they’ve been in a long time in the second quarter of 2012, American Medical News reports, with visits increasing almost 5 percent on average. This reverses a downward trend starting in 2008; providers saw a nearly 9 percent decline the same quarter of 2011. This points to an improving economy for both patients and their caregivers, some experts say.

This information is based on research by Parsippany, N.J.-based market research firm IMS Health and Credit Suisse estimates.

There were glimpses of the same type of recovery in the latest polling by Gallup, gauging Americans’ ability to afford health care and other necessities. In March, 80.9 percent of respondents said they had no problem affording needed health care, up from a low of 77.7 percent when the recession hit in late 2008, but still slightly lower than in February 2011.

A particularly good sign for primary care physicians and advocates of a primary-care-driven system, patient visits to family doctors, internists, ob/gyns, and pediatricians rose again in May and June. That’s according to data from Truven Health Analytics, formerly Thomson Reuters Healthcare. With the exception of pediatrics, volume for those specialties has been rising or holding steady since November 2011, according to Truven figures. Pediatric visits declined in February, March, and April, a reversal from the same period in 2011.

Some experts say the noticeable shift in patient visits is about more than the economy recovering from the most recent recession. It also may be due, in part, to renewed support for primary care that recently has come from employers, insurers, and the government. Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), for example, many insurance plans must cover most preventive care services at no out-of-pocket costs to patients.

Source: American Medical News


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