Physician Survey: 80% Over-Extended Or At Capacity

By  //  September 21, 2014

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MANY DOCTORS CONCERNED ABOUT THE STATE OF THE MEDICAL PROFESSION

EDITOR’S NOTE: We’re delighted to again welcome Kelley Dunn, Senior Director of Marketing for Merritt Hawkins the nation’s leading physician search and consulting firm and a company of AMN Healthcare, as a guest columnist for SpaceCoastDaily.com and Space Coast Medicine and Active Living magazine.

Every other year, The Physicians Foundation conducts a national survey of physicians to address a multitude of questions that help to describe the state of the medical profession today through the eyes of practicing physicians themselves. Ms. Dunn reports on how the current physician attitudes and practice patterns affect what is most important to patients–timely access to care.

— Dr. Jim Palermo, Editor-in-Chief

ATLANTA, GEORGIA — U.S. and Florida patients are likely to face growing challenges in access to care if shifting patterns in medical practice configurations and physician workforce trends continue.

This is one of the key findings of a major new survey of 20,000 physicians conducted by Merritt Hawkins for The Physicians Foundation, a nonprofit organization that seeks to advance the work of practicing physicians and help facilitate the delivery of healthcare to patients.

According to the research, titled “2014 Survey of America’s Physicians: Practice Patterns and Perspectives,” 81 percent of physicians describe themselves as either over-extended or at full capacity, while only 19 percent indicate they have time to see more patients.

Survey responses from physicians in Florida indicate that 79 percent of physicians in the state are overextended or at full capacity.

PHYSICIAN ATTITUDES AND PRACTICE PATTERNS NOT CONDUCIVE TO IMPROVED CARE ACCESS

Forty-four percent of physicians surveyed plan to take steps that would reduce patient access to their services, including cutting back on patients seen, retiring, working part-time, closing their practice to new patients or seeking non-clinical jobs, leading to the potential loss of tens of thousands of full-time-equivalents (FTEs). In Florida, over 44% of physicians plan to take such steps.

Doctor with laptop in doctor's office

Survey responses from physicians in Florida indicate that 79 percent of physicians in the state are overextended or at full capacity.

“America’s physician workforce is undergoing significant changes,” said Walker Ray, M.D., vice president of The Physicians Foundation and chair of its Research Committee.

“Physicians are younger, more are working in employed practice settings and more are leaving private practice. This new guard of physicians report having less capacity to take on additional patients.

These trends carry significant implications for patient access to care.

With more physicians retiring and an increasing number of doctors, particularly younger physicians, planning to switch in whole or in part to concierge medicine, we could see a limiting effect on physician supply and, ultimately, on the ability of the U.S. healthcare system to properly care for millions of new patients.”

The survey, conducted online from March 2014 through June 2014 by Merritt Hawkins for The Physicians Foundation, is based on responses from 20,088 physicians across the U.S.

The overall margin of error (MOE) for the entire survey is less than two percent, indicating a very low sampling error for a survey designed to draw opinions and perspectives from a large population.

 ALMOST 60% OF FLORIDA PHYSICIANS REPORT NEGATIVE MORALE

Other responses to the survey from Florida doctors to the survey include:

• 41 percent describe their morale as positive, while 59 percent describe their morale as negative

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While the 2014 survey shows what may be an incipient change in physician attitudes for the better, Florida physicians today continue to express a low level of morale and significant misgivings about the state of their profession and the healthcare system.

• 67 percent would choose medicine as a career if they had it to do over, while 33 percent would not

• 38 percent will accelerate their retirement plans due to ongoing changes in medicine and healthcare

• 18 percent participate in accountable care organizations (ACOs)

• 74 percent see all Medicare patients, while 26 percent do not see Medicare patients or limit the number they see

• 48 percent see all Medicaid patients, while 52 percent do not see Medicaid patients or limit the number they see

• 66 percent believe there is a physician shortage and that more doctors should be trained.

DOCTORS SEEKING ALTERNATIVES TO TRADITIONAL PRIVATE PRACTICE

With over one million data points, the survey paints a portrait of today’s doctors, many of whom have deep concerns about the state of the medical profession and are seeking alternatives to traditional private practice.

However, the survey indicates that there has been some improvement in physician morale and outlook since the survey was last conducted in 2012.

In general, younger physicians tend to be more positive in their outlook than do older doctors.

Responses to the survey are available by state, and those who would like to obtain a copy of responses from Florida physicians are welcome to email me at Kelley.dunn@merritthawkins.com or to call 770-481-1181.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

kdunn_headshotKelley Dunn is Senior Director with Merritt Hawkins, the leading physician search and consulting firm in the United States and a company of AMN Healthcare (NYSE: AHS).

She earned a double major in Biology and Chemistry from the University of Georgia, a Masters degree from Florida Atlantic University, and is currently a faculty instructor with the University of Florida.

With more than eight years of healthcare staffing experience, Kelley has consulted with over 2,000 clinics and hospitals in Florida. 

She can be reached at 770-481-1181 or Kelley.Dunn@merritthawkins.com.


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