Electronic Health Records

Adoption & Implementation News

How do mandates affect docs, health IT staff differently?

By Kyle Murphy, PhD

Legislative changes have already begun or are beginning to leave an impression on the healthcare industry and impacting healthcare professionals differently depending on their role in an organization, in the clinic or in support of health information technology (IT). The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) are two such examples. The effects, however, are not necessarily the same.

Recent survey results published by healthcare staffing firm Jackson Healthcare reveal that the ACA has not led to changes in terms of their patient populations and practices for the majority of physicians.

While 23 percent and 15 percent of 1,527 surveyed physicians reported losses in the number of patients as a result of insurance policy cancellations or inability to accept insurance plans, respectively, 19 percent indicated additions to their patient panels as a result of individuals obtaining insurance through the health insurance exchanges.

“Some physicians are pleased to be able to offer care to patients who haven’t seen a doctor in years — especially patients with conditions in need of treatment,” write Sheri Sorrell and Keith Jennings. “Other physicians have increased or maintained their patient panels, but are seeing patients less often as a result of high deductibles.”

A positive takeaway from the findings is the rise in participation in accountable care organizations (ACOs) by physicians, which appears to have an encouraging effect on physician satisfaction and career outlook despite longer workdays and zero change to income.

ACO participation tends to be more common among physicians younger than 54 (54% of those working in an ACO v. 46% not working in an ACO), working in urban areas (42% v. 37%), and employed by a hospital and never having working independently (50% v. 42%).

Despite the ACA having a relatively negligible effect on physicians currently, it still has many of them concerned moving forward. Physician productivity is decreasing as a result of sicker patients requiring more care and uncertainties related to reimbursement and collection challenges are preventing many physicians from making strategic decisions concerning their practices.

Compared to physicians, the outlook for healthcare IT professionals remains promising. Healthcare IT staffing company Healthcare IT Leaders recently unveiled the results of its first-ever HIT workforce engagement report. Comprising responses from close to 460 healthcare IT professionals, the report shows high levels of job satisfaction among full-time employees (FTEs) and consultants — 64 percent of the former and 86 percent of the latter were very or somewhat satisfied with their current jobs.

Satisfaction with their jobs is apparently commensurate with satisfaction with pay. A majority of FTEs were very and somewhat satisfied with their current pay (60%) as compared to a vast majority of consultants (80%).

Given the high demand for IT expertise in healthcare, healthcare IT professionals are being actively approached by recruiters and responding to these inquiries. High numbers of FTEs and consultants — 85 percent and 84 percent, respectively — have received messages from recruiters. A slightly smaller number has responded to these inquires, 62 percent and 72 percent, respectively.

“Only a small minority of the HIT workforce said they would not consider a new job, meaning most would change employers if the circumstances were right,” state the report.

All of this positivity comes at a time of significant expenditures by healthcare organizations and providers looking to receive incentives or avoid penalties linked to health IT adoption (e.g., meaningful use). It is no surprise then that healthcare IT professionals are feeling the benefits of being wanted.

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