Reimbursement, patient approvals top doctors' concerns

Obtaining reimbursement from payers topped the professional concerns that physicians reported in a recent survey. Discover the other worries of survey participants, and see whether you agree.

Top concerns facing physicians today include obtaining reimbursements from payers and obtaining patient approvals, at 81% and 77%, respectively, according to the results of a recent national survey of doctors conducted by consumer health Web site Sharecare and physician directory the little blue book.

Additionally, 71% of responding doctors said they believe that the quality of healthcare will deteriorate over the next 5 years, 55% are afraid that they are not spending adequate time with their patients, and 38% are concerned that their daily patient volume is not high enough.

The survey included 1,190 practitioners in the United States representing more than 75 medical specialties.

Additional highlights:

Use of technology. Sixty-six percent of survey participants said that integrating electronic health records (EHRs) into their practices is a challenge, but the same percentage of physicians maintain that EHRs will improve or have a neutral effect on their business. Thirty percent of responding doctors said they are using laptops regularly for e-prescribing, accessing EHRs, and other uses. Twenty percent reported using smartphones for clinical purposes, and 12% said they use iPads for clinical purposes.

• Physician-to-physician communication. The telephone and fax machine remain the primary forms of communication that physicians use to communicate with one another, at 95% and 63%, respectively. Fifty-eight percent of respondents said they communicate with other doctors in person, and 5% said they use social networking Web sites for professional communication purposes. Thirty-four percent of physicians participating in the survey said they communicate with other clinicians via email, which is not defined as a secure channel by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

• Physician-patient communication. Ninety-one percent of survey respondents said they speak with patients over the telephone, 84% communicate in person, 20% use email, 8% communicate with patients via personal health records, and 6% use text messaging.

Changing practice patterns. Twenty-two percent of doctors participating in the survey said they are in discussions to join an accountable care organization (ACO), up from 12% in last year’s survey. Seventeen percent of respondents said they were unfamiliar with the term ACO, down from 45% in last year’s survey. Of those respondents who said they were aware of ACOs, 37% said they would participate in one as a member of a group practice, 27% said they would take part in an ACO as a member of a physician-hospital organization, and 10% said they would participate in an ACO as a hospital employee.

Expanding the patient base. Survey participants said that their new patients find them via word of mouth (71%), practice networks referrals (33%), print directories (29%), and Web searches (22%).