An insured population will increase demands on physicians.

In my last column, I mentioned the Affordable Care Act and some of the opportunities as well as challenges hospitals face with this historic legislation. 2013 will continue to be a year of transition with many more provisions of the law taking affect. Hospitals and doctors both will continue to be challenged by reductions in payments received for services.

Despite these challenges, there are up sides for primary care doctors, which in our community include family practice and internal medicine physicians. As all citizens become insured, the demand for primary care physicians and advanced practice staff will balloon.

Many small rural communities will be challenged to have enough providers to meet the demand. Our community is so fortunate to have eight primary care physicians, with one more internal medicine physician joining us this summer.

Hospitals and doctors will benefit by working together to face the coming changes. According to a national physician recruitment firm, practice mergers and acquisitions by hospitals will continue into 2013, and it is predicted that by 2016, 78 percent of all practicing physicians will be employed by hospitals. The employed physician model has been utilized in Pratt for many years.

Physician alignment is a strategy our Board has discussed extensively, and these discussions are ongoing. There is no question that our primary care physicians are the backbone of our medical community, and it is our Board's intent to insure retention of these doctors as we continue to evolve into a very different healthcare model.

As a reminder, the front door of the hospital will be closing mid-March and patients will be directed to enter at the South Central Medical Clinic. Emergency Department patients should still use the south entrance. We will have volunteers present to direct you where you need to go.

During February, there will be many offices relocating, and as those occur, we will communicate to you where you can find people. We continue to be thankful to our community for your support, and together we are insuring a great healthcare system for many years to come.

Susan Page is the president and CEO of Pratt Regional Medical Center