Initial Impact of the Affordable Care Act

July 21, 2014
Laura Joszt

Despite worries that the implementation of the Affordable Care Act would increase patient visits, a new report revealed that has not been the case thus far.

Despite worries that the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) would increase patient visits, a new report revealed that has not yet been the case during the first months of healthcare reform.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and athenahealth recently released ACAView, the first comprehensive report analyzing the impact of the ACA through May 2014. The report is part of a joint initiative of the same name between the 2 organizations created for the purpose of measuring the impact of the ACA on providers, patients, and physicians from 2014 through 2016.

"With ACAView, our goal is to inform, exchange ideas, and provide a timely, front-row view of how this landmark legislation affects a robust cross-section of providers across the nation," Josh Gray, vice president of athenaResearch at athenahealth, said in a statement.

Since the beginning of the year, healthcare providers did not see an increase in new patient volume, according to a sample of 14,300 providers. Pediatrics was the only specialty that did see a slightly increase in new patient visit rates for the first 5 months of 2014 compared to the same time period in 2013.

According to the report, providers also did not see an increased burden of illness or complexity among new patients. In fact, newer patients had a lower rate of chronic disease than established patients.

"Healthcare leaders are unclear about how health reform ultimately impacts them and their patients, and they need more information on how new policies affect practices," Katherine Hempstead of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, said in a statement. "Already, the data suggest some surprises. These data suggest there hasn't been an immediate increase in primary care utilization, and there's been no major influx of chronically ill people into the system. These and other measures will be important to watch over time."