Treating The Patient vs. The Healthcare System

10872771_lThe Physicians Foundation recently released its findings from this year’s biennial physician survey.  What surprised us the most, or should we say amazed us, were the 10,170 physicians who took the additional time to send us commentaries that filled more pages than in Gone with the Wind.  That act alone demonstrates how strongly physicians feel about what is happening today to the practice of medicine.  We will close our remarks with a sampling of theirs.

U.S. physicians continue to struggle to maintain morale levels, adapt to changing delivery and payment models, and provide patients with reasonable access to care.  According to the research titled 2016 Survey of America’s Physicians: Practice Patterns and Perspectives,” 80 percent of physicians report being overextended or at capacity, with no time to see additional patients. This remains consistent with the findings reported in the 2014 survey from the Foundation. Not surprisingly, 54 percent of physicians surveyed rate their morale as somewhat or very negative, with 49 percent saying they are either often or always feeling burnt out.

Conducted by Merritt Hawkins, the survey findings are based on a sizable response of over 17,000 physicians and address professional morale, practice patterns, career plans and their perspectives on recently passed government regulations.

In response to these and other challenges, 48 percent of surveyed physicians plan to cut back on hours, retire, take a non-clinical job, switch to “concierge” medicine or take other steps that will further limit patient access – an increase from those who answered similarly in the 2014 survey.  Clearly, many physicians are dissatisfied with the current state of medical practice and are starting to opt out of traditional patient care roles. By retiring, taking non-clinical roles or cutting back in various other ways, physicians are essentially voting with their feet and leaving the clinical workforce. This trend is to the detriment of patient access. It is imperative that all healthcare stakeholders recognize and begin to address these issues more proactively, to support physicians and enhance the medical practice environment.

Other interesting findings include:

  • 3 percent gave the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) an “A” rating, while 48% gave it a “D” or “F” rating.
  • 6 percent indicated that ICD-10 has improved efficiency in their practice, while 42.5% reported that ICD-10 has detracted from efficiency. On a lighter note, neither of us has yet to find a physician who has used the code for a patient who was sucked into a jet engine.  We will keep asking!
  • 11 percent found that EHRs have improved patient interaction, while 60 percent indicated that they have detracted from patient interaction.
  • Only 8 percent of physicians agreed that the Maintenance of Certification (MOC), required by specialty boards, accurately assesses their clinical abilities.


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