This past week, I had the opportunity to represent AOPA at the Council of Medical Specialty Societies Annual Specialty Forum where the theme was Advancing Care through Technology: Role of Telehealth, Big Data and Artificial Intelligence. You might be thinking, “What does this have to do with O&P?”
Everything. Unfortunately, recent trends in the O&P profession have made it hard to be forward-thinking. As AOPA’s incoming President, Jeff Lutz has said, “We’ve been forced to focus on the urgent instead of the important.” We’ve been forced to remain in a constant state of reaction in order to defend the profession. Resources have been allocated to address an array of issues, including misguided audits, predatory contracting practices, regulatory overreach and diminishing reimbursements, to name a few. All of these issues lead to a lack of access to care for O&P patients.
I don’t think it benefits our patients or our practices to be beholden to the “hype cycle,” but if Telehealth, Big Data and Artificial Intelligence are shaping the future of healthcare, and O&P care is healthcare, we need to be paying attention and thinking about the ways these innovations will impact our profession.
Being present at this type of conference, also offers perspective. Over the two days, it became very clear that we are not alone in facing the challenges imposed by an ever-changing healthcare environment. In expressing those challenges, vibrant conversations emerged that explored novel approaches to issues and conceptualized solutions.
In his keynote, Aneesh Chopra, the first Chief Technology Officer for the United States, described an unsustainable cost environment in healthcare limited by financial drivers that ultimately result in suboptimal care for patients. He believes that data is the answer to this conundrum and that evidence should be rewarded.
Chopra also emphasized the importance of healthcare providers owning their own value proposition, and said that without an assessment of value, there is no way to have true cost transparency. This stands as one of the biggest issues facing O&P, presently.
Dermatologists have incorporated provider-to-provider telehealth consultations with primary care physicians to ensure that patients get the care they need and that necessary documentation is recorded in a patient’s medical record to support continuity of care. Could this model be embraced by O&P patient care practices?
Some specialties are using machine learning, AKA artificial intelligence, to track physiological changes in patients that trigger a warning or prompt an intervention for possible prevention. In some cases, individuals living with limb loss see their prosthetists more often than any of their other healthcare providers; this opens the opportunity to track changes. Could this possibly increase the value proposition for appropriately reimbursed prosthetic patient care?
I am thrilled that AOPA is interested in learning more about these novel approaches to practice as well as others our members are currently exploring. We are excited to have Aneesh Chopra as our keynote for the AOPA 2020 O&P Leadership Conference in January and look forward to the thought-provoking and innovative concepts he’ll bring to the discussion.
As we focus on moving the profession forward, we also remain committed to fighting the urgent issues and continuing to support our members in addressing the challenges facing O&P practices today. I am proud to be part of a team dedicated to improving access to care for people living with limb loss, limb difference and limb impairment.