Physicians feeling over-worked, abandoning independent practice

September 19, 2014

A new workforce survey shows physicians are feeling over-extended and shifting toward hospital employment .

As the healthcare industry undergoes significant reform, physicians are feeling increased strain, according to a recent workforce survey from The Physicians Foundation.

The survey, which was conducted by Merritt Hawkins between March and June 2014, included responses from 20,088 physicians. Of the respondents, 37% were primary care physicians, including family medicine, internal medicine and pediatrics.

With a looming shortage of primary care physicians and an expected flood of newly-insured patients through the Affordable Care Act, 81% of physicians described themselves as “over-extended” or “at full-capacity.”

One of the most notable survey findings is the continuing shift toward hospital employment. The survey found that the employed model is “making large and swift inroads into private practice.” This year, only 35% of the respondents remained independent practice owners. That’s a drop from 49% in 2012 and 62% in 2008. Only 9% of physicians said they mostly agree that hospital employment would enhance the quality of care and decrease costs, while 34% mostly disagreed, 28% somewhat agreed and 29% somewhat disagreed.

READ: How to survive in independent practice

“The state of the physician workforce, and medicine in general, is experiencing a period of massive transition,” said Lou Goodman, PhD, president of The Physicians Foundation and chief executive officer of the Texas Medical Association, in a written statement. “As such, the growing diversity of the physician workforce will reflect different perspectives and sentiments surrounding the state of medicine. While I am troubled that a majority of physicians are pessimistic about the state of medicine, I am heartened by the fact that 71 percent of physicians would still choose to be a physician if they had to do it over.”

The survey also analyzed physicians’ satisfaction with electronic health records (EHRs). While the majority of respondents (85%) had implemented an EHR, only 24% said that the systems improved efficiency.