4. Lawsuits against insurers. Physicians won preliminary approval of a $350 million settlement against UnitedHealth Group, and UnitedHealth's subsidiary, Ingenix, after the New York Attorney General's office went after the insurer for "a scheme to defraud consumers by manipulating reimbursement rates." After winning that battle, the AMA has also filed suits against Aetna Inc., Cigna Corp., and WellPoint, Inc. for allegedly using rigged data to reimburse physicians.
5. Physician use of social networking and technology. Physicians are increasingly joining social networks like Facebook and Twitter, which has raised interesting questions about how patients and clinicians should interact online. At the same time, mobile technologies are also beginning to change how physicians practice, and we have not yet seen their full potential. For instance, physicians can now view EHR records, diagnose appendicitis, monitor patients, and look up drug interactions using applications on an iPhone. As these technologies become more advanced and physicians and patients grow more comfortable using them, they could completely revamp the way physicians practice medicine.
Reform will probably again be the major story for 2010, at least early in the year. But like 2009, there will be a lot of change and uncertainty in healthcare that isn't tied to reform, as well.