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What are top business challenges, prospects for physicians?

By Kyle Murphy, PhD

While physicians face a multitude of challenges amidst a backdrop of healthcare reform, physicians are now more than ever reporting difficulty in handling business challenges associated with the shift in reimbursement models, the task of financial management, and the need to spend an adequate amount of time with patients, according to a recent Wolters Kluwer Health survey.

Of the 300 physician surveyed as part of the study, an overwhelming majority listed three business challenges that were more pressing than most. And two of the top-three business challenges deal with finances. Ninety-one percent indicated that managing shifting reimbursement with payors was the top challenge, which was followed closely by financial management (90%) and spending time with patients (88%) in rounding out the top three.

When asked about the source of financial management challenges, physicians pointed to increasing costs, the adoption of health IT, and the promulgation of legislation such as the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The ACA is slated to increase the number of insured Americans by several factors of ten, putting the total number in the tens of millions.

It should then come as little surprise that physicians saw the effects of ACA as having a serious and likely negative impact on their practice. While 84 percent view the legislation as “either very or somewhat challenging for their practice,” 67 percent see the ACA as a “top contributor to rising healthcare costs.”

“Physicians are facing increasing pressure to create efficiencies across their practices and drive down costs while at the same time demonstrating improved outcomes for patients,” Sean Benson, Vice President of Innovation at Wolters Kluwer Health, said in a public statement. “To derive true benefits from HIT and EMR systems, physician offices and health systems must integrate clinical decision support into the workflow to enable improved decision-making at the point of care with patients.”

The adoption of health IT appears less problematic than dealing with the repercussions of the ACA. Half of the respondents consider their adoption and use of health IT as a valuable means toward ensuring patient safety and improving patient care. Additionally, a similar number of physicians (51%) look to EMR systems to advance their practice evidence-based medicine.

Mobile use appears to keep increasing among physicians. More than half of respondents (55%) are using both smartphones and tablets in their daily practice. In terms of use cases, nearly three-fourths (72%) use these devices to access drug information while more than two-thirds of respondents are communicating with staff (44%), accessing medical research (43%), and using evidence-based reference tools at the point of care (42%).

Despite this optimism and uptick in use, many physicians indicate disappointment in the lack of progress made via health IT in the areas of ease of use (56%), patient engagement (61%), and efficiency of clinical workflows (66%).

When it comes to determining a plan of action in the next few years, physicians are researching opportunities to improve practice efficiencies (48%), to explore merging with a hospital or forming alternative business models such as accountable care (34%), and to adopt technologies for clinical decision support and evidence-based decision-making (31%). Likewise, a similar portion of physicians  (34) are considering leaving their practice because of the difficulty in remaining profitable (29%) or that they no longer find the work rewarding (15%).

Read the rest of the findings here.

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