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Concerns About the Future of Medicine: Latest Survey Reveals Physician Fears

The latest annual survey of medical professionals by a major consulting and financial planning service has revealed a number of concerns about the future of the medical industry. Perhaps surprisingly to some, not all of the concerns are related to the Affordable Care Act.

The 2013 Deloitte Survey of U.S Physicians is based upon replies from more than 600 primary care physicians and medical specialists around the nation. Topics covered included the ACA, medical liability reform, new technologies in managing a practice, and job satisfaction. Some of the key findings are highlighted below:

  • While it might be expected to find an unfavorable response to the ACA, the number of physicians expressing a negative opinion of the proposed reforms had declined since 2012. There was a slight increase in the number with a favorable view of the changes, and an increase in those who were unsure. The majority did agree that something needed to be done to improve access to healthcare and to rein in ballooning costs; the ACA was seen as a good starting point. However, many expressed concerns that Healthcare Enrollment Exchanges would not be ready to cope with the demand once they opened to new insurance sign ups, a concern that, with the benefit of hindsight, seems well-founded.
  • The need for medical liability reforms was shown to be a major concern to physicians, but only one in ten believed that any sort of reform is likely to occur within the next three years.
  • Many physicians and surgical specialists feared that their clinical autonomy was being steadily eroded, and that they often were expected to make a trade off between a better income (more likely at a larger medical facility) and greater professional autonomy (valued more in a solo practice). This is linked to medical liability as financial and insurance concerns increasingly dictate treatment options.
  • The bureaucratic requirements that accompany treating Medicaid and Medicare patients is becoming increasingly overwhelming, with nine out of ten doctors saying they did not believe Medicaid reimbursements would rise to match actual primary care costs. One possible outcome would be dropping these patients.
  • Seven out of ten physicians said that they feel satisfied with their job, with primary care physicians being less likely than their specialist colleagues to feel job satisfaction. Among those expressing satisfaction, the primary reason was their relationships with patients. At the same time, those who expressed dissatisfaction frequently cited a lack of time to interact with their patients as a key factor. Other reasons for job frustration are the long hours and the burden of satisfying Medicaid/Medicare regulations.
  • There is a growing interest in adopting new technologies to assist with patient interactions, including online and mobile consulting technologies. However, patient safety and confidentiality were stressed as deciding factors in the adoption of new technologies. Confidentiality is especially important given that 80 percent of respondents see interdisciplinary teams and coordinated care as the future of healthcare.
  • Eighty one percent of surgical specialists shared a fear that the profession no longer attracts the brightest and the best. Satisfaction, income levels, lack of autonomy, and growing bureaucracy were all cited as potential reasons.

It seems that most physicians surveyed agreed that major changes are needed within the medical profession, but knowing what those changes need to be and implementing them may not be that easy.

The full findings of this survey may be downloaded from http://www.deloitte.com/assets/Dcom-UnitedStates/Local%20Assets/Documents/us_chs_2013SurveyofUSPhysicians_031813.pdf.

Further information, including healthcare consumer surveys, may be found at http://www.deloitte.com/centerforhealthsolutions.

By Fiona Young-Brown, Editor, Kentucky Doc Magazine

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