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Another Survey of America’s Doctors

By November 2, 2016Commentary

The Physicians Foundation, in conjunction with Merritt Hawkins, surveyed 17,236 physicians for its 2016 annual survey.   (Physician Survey)   This is a much larger survey than some of the others we have reviewed, and therefore the results should be viewed as especially credible.  This survey confirms the shift in how doctor’s practice shown in other surveys.  Only 17% are in solo practice compared to 25% in 2012.  33% are independent practice owners or partners, compared to 48% in 2012.  20% practice in groups of 101 doctors or more, up from 12% in 2012.  Only 44% say hospital employment of physicians is a positive.  And moving from independent practice appears to have a significant impact on productivity; employed doctors see 19% fewer patients than those who are practice owners.  This may reflect less motivation, less economic reward, and more time spent on bureaucracy in employment settings.  36% participate in at least one accountable care organization.  27% either don’t see Medicare patients at all or limit the number they will see.  43% have some aspect of their compensation tied to quality or value.

The perspectives on practicing medicine reflected in this survey are depressing.  49% of respondents said they would not recommend the practice of medicine to their children.  49% said they often or always feel burned out.  Only 37% view the future of the profession as positive.  And what are some primary reasons for this downbeat attitude.  Well, only 11% say EHRs improve patient interaction, while 60% say they detract from that interaction.  80% feel at capacity  or overextended.  72% say external factors, like prior authorization processes, negatively affect the quality of care.  Only 14% perceive that they have the time with patients to provide the highest standard of care.  And 21% of their time, on average, goes to non-clinical paperwork.  So not, surprisingly, 48% of physicians said they plan to retire, take a non-clinical job, go to concierge medicine or make some other change in how they work.

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