Ari Brown, MD, FAAP, is a pediatrician based in Austin, Texas, who has been in private practice for 17 years. She is the author of the “Baby 411” parenting book series and is on the advisory board for Parents magazine. She has served as an AAP spokesperson for 10 years. A former executive committee member of the Council on Communications and Media, she was the lead author of the 2011 policy statement on media use in children under 2 years of age. In 2012, she received an AAP Special Achievement Award for her work in vaccine advocacy.
How will the newest elements of the Affordable Care Act affect pediatricians in 2013?
With Obama’s second term, it’s clear the Affordable Care Act is moving forward. Many policies won’t go into effect until 2014, and there will be modifications along the way. But it is almost certain that more pediatric patients will be seeking care. Hopefully, those patients will come to an office or clinic as a medical home, instead of an emergency department.
Overall, this is great news for kids and for pediatricians. However, we need to make sure that the public and the government remain aware of our unique expertise as child-health specialists. (And, that we should be appropriately reimbursed for our services!) We’ll need more pediatricians, but it is inevitable that non-physician providers will expand their role in primary pediatric care to accommodate for increased patient volumes.
It’s possible that this changing health care landscape could change what it means to be a pediatrician — as in other countries where “pediatricians” care for very ill or medically complex patients. It’s also possible that large hospital corporations will buy up small primary care practices that can’t deal with the increasing challenges of the business of medicine. These are significant risks that we face.
What challenges do pediatricians face in the coming year? What are some of the opportunities?
Urgent care and after-hours walk-in clinics are clearly popular options for families who are looking for convenient health care. Parents don’t have to miss work or wait until the office opens the next morning with a sick child. Some families even go to these centers for sports or camp physicals instead of visiting their child’s own doctor. Our challenge is to spread the message that there are issues of quality and fractured care when parents do not utilize a medical home.
But, it is also an opportunity to modify traditional care models to meet the needs of our patients. Parents want convenient access and convenient ways to talk to their child’s doctor. Pediatricians can remain the preferred health care providers for children by having office hours when people need or want them, and embracing HIPAA and HITECH-compliant electronic communications with patients (instead of complaining about it).
What are some of the hot-button pediatric health issues and trends you expect to dominate the news in 2013?
Obesity and health-related consequences remain a hot topic for pediatric and adult health. It is ultimately up to families to make healthy nutrition and lifestyle decisions. But legislative proposals, such as creating a soda tax, will keep the expanding U.S. waistline in the news cycle.
Technology use in children is also a hot topic. Ironically, both traditional and new media outlets can be key players in educating families about responsible media use. A team and I have been charged with moving the AAP’s Agenda for Children priority forward. Our goal is to empower parents and kids with the tools to have an effective media management strategy.
This question-and-answer session was produced as part of SmartBrief’s 2012 Best Of reports, which capture the year’s most important stories in each industry. Sign up now for AAP SmartBrief to get tomorrow’s report on the top must-read stories on pediatrics.
Image courtesy of Ari Brown.