Survey: Docs Struggling Financially, but New Tech Makes Job Easier

Despite evidence indicating that doctors are doing worse this year compared to last, job satisfaction has increased, with doctors citing new technology as a contributing factor, according to a new survey.

The survey was conducted by Practice Fusion, a San Francisco-based EHR provider, with MDLinx in December. It collected responses from a national sample of 100 physicians, the majority of which were primary care providers with fewer than six providers.

The 2011 State of the Small Practice survey highlights the challenges faced by private practices nationwide in an environment of economic downturn, technology mandates and healthcare reform.

“Small primary care medical practices are the backbone of the U.S. healthcare system,” said Ryan Howard, CEO of Practice Fusion. “These are family doctors on the front lines, they’re passionate about caring for their patients and our survey indicates that they’re struggling,” he said.

The survey found that 41 percent of doctors report that their practice is doing worse this year compared to last year. Twenty-six report their practice doing better and 31 percent report no change.

The survey indicates that insurance reimbursement delays and payments are another big concern for doctors, with 26 percent of survey respondents citing it as one of their chief complaint followed by patient volume and satisfaction (11 percent). Decreases in revenue coupled with lower patient volumes are making it more difficult for doctors to keep up with the costs of running a practice, said officials.

Despite the financial pressures, the survey found that 69 percent of doctors report being satisfied to extremely satisfied with their career. Fifty-nine percent cited use of new technology as making things easier for their practice.

The survey found that 73 percent of respondents were using a computer that was three-years old or older, and nine out of 10 could correctly define an electronic health record.

Eleven percent of doctors cited improvements in overall efficiency and healthcare technology as impacting their practice positively, and 7 percent cited having an electronic health record as a positive trend.

Physicians cited advancements in medicine (22 percent), patient quality (19 percent) and improvement in the healthcare workforce (15 percent) as the most positive trends impacting their practice.

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