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15-07-2012 | Article

Survey of US MDs shows uncertainty about the future


Full survey

MedWire News: A survey of US physicians suggests that many are apprehensive about the immediate future and feel overburdened by administrative issues.

At the same time, the majority accept the benefits of electronic medical records (EMRs), but seem to be lagging behind other professionals in their use of communications technologies, according to the survey conducted by the physician directory little blue book, and the consumer health interactive website Sharecare.

The survey asked physicians to report how Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), EMRs, and other changes in healthcare affect their practices, where they need help in practice management, how they manage change in their practices, how they communicate with patients and colleagues, and where they think healthcare is headed.

A total of 1190 physicians representing more than 75 specialties responded to the survey. In all, 71% said they expected a decline in the quality of healthcare over the next 5 years, and 41% said they looked to state-based rather than national advocacy organizations for support. A full 40% of respondents, however, reported that "no one is advocating for me."

In addition, 81% of respondents said they felt that administrative tasks related to patient care were one of the biggest clinical challenges they faced. Slightly more than half (55%) said they had trouble spending adequate time with each patient, one-third (33%) reported challenges in communicating with other clinicians, and nearly as many (31%) said they had difficulty keeping up with the latest clinical developments.

Among the most frequently reported practice management challenges were obtaining reimbursement from insurers (reported by 80% of respondents), administrative burdens of patient approvals (77%), integration of EMR or other systems (66%), and inability to see enough patients in a day (38%).

Although two-thirds of respondents reported difficulties with integrating EMR, 35% said that electronic records would improve patient care, while 31% said they would have a neutral effect.

The survey also showed that physicians are still tied to their telephones, with 95% saying they used the telephone to communicate with colleagues. Nearly two-thirds (63%) also used faxes, 58% consulted in person, and 34% used email. Only 5% reported using social networking to talk to their fellow physicians.

The majority (91%) of respondents said they communicated with patients by telephone, whereas 84% talked to them in person. Only 20% used email, 9% used a personal health record, and only 6% sent text messages to communicate.

By Neil Osterweil