Researcher: 5 Ways Obamacare Has Improved US Health System

The Affordable Care Act has driven some significant improvements to the U.S. health care system, though many Americans are not yet aware of them, scholar says.

America’s health care landscape has undergone some dramatic changes as a result of the passage of the Affordable Care Act of 2010, otherwise known as Obamacare. The ACA has its share of critics, even five years after its passage.

But despite the ongoing controversy over Obamacare, there are at least a handful of ways that it’s improved your health care, according to a researcher at the Brookings Institution, a Washington D.C.-based think tank.

“[B]ehind the noise and confusion, there are some major forces at work that are driving new models of care and changing the way we practice, pay for, and evaluate health care,” writes Kavita Patel, a physician and expert on health care reform and medical delivery.

She notes five positive changes that have occurred over the past five years, many of them unnoticed by patients and physicians:

  • Team-based care. ACA payment models promote a team-based approach to health care as a way to provide higher quality care and better patient outcomes. Oftentimes, this means dealing more with nonphysician staff for things such as following up, giving instructions for medications and other administrative tasks. “This allows doctors to spend time providing more intensive, specialized care such as diagnosing patients and devising a treatment plan,” Patel writes.
  • More focus on prevention and wellness. The ACA encouraged a shift in how Americans use health care, focusing more on preventive care and wellness, rather than simply treating illnesses. Because of this, an additional 76 million people are seeing health professionals for preventive care, according to Patel’s article. That means you may be seeing your doctor more now for well visits, immunizations and recommended health tests.
  • Evening and weekend care aren’t always limited to ER visits. “To participate in new payment models such as bundled payments, practices are often required to offer extended hours for their patients on evenings and weekends to reduce the overuse of expensive and unnecessary emergency room visits,” Patel said. So you may be able to call and get a doctor’s advice 24/7.
  • Paper records are out; digital files are in. Electronic health records are designed to improve patient care. Some patients are now able to take advantage of patient portals online, where they can access educational materials and view their office visits and health test results.
  • Increase in access to health care in remote areas. Mobile technology and virtual visits are used more often to connect with patients in rural and remote areas. This allows many people to “see” a doctor without leaving their home or office. “The trend is being picked up by several large insurance companies and employers to save costs related to in-office visits, but also for offering access to care that might otherwise be sought out in the emergency room or that might be delayed and cause more serious illness,” Patel noted.

Have you noticed any of these changes in your health care visits? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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