Surveys reveal physician concerns about healthcare reform

June 20, 2012

Two new surveys reveal physicians' thoughts about the effects of the Affordable Care Act on healthcare, and most of the sentiments aren't positive.

As the country awaits the Supreme Court decision about the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), two new surveys reveal physicians’ thoughts about the effects that the act will have on healthcare, and most of the sentiments aren’t positive.

A majority of physicians participating in the survey by healthcare staffing and technology company Jackson Health said that, although patient access to care will increase, the ACA will not improve the quality of healthcare or patients’ control over their own healthcare and won’t address increasing costs. In addition, respondents said the law will decrease the amount of control doctors have over practice decisions.

Another survey, by cloud-based electronic health record (EHR) system company athenahealth Inc. and online physician community Sermo, had similar findings.

“Physician opinions are important since they are a primary driver of healthcare decisions and costs,” says Richard L. Jackson, chairman and chief executive officer of Jackson Healthcare. “Overall, they believe the law does not meet its intended objectives, negatively impacts the patient-physician relationship, and hinders their ability to control the treatment of their patients.”

Other findings from the Jackson Health survey:

• 70% of participants said that the ACA will not stem rising healthcare costs.

• 68% said that the act will not have a positive effect on the doctor-patient relationship.

• 64% said that an independent payment advisory board, which will be responsible for finding ways for the Medicare program to save money, will have a negative effect on patient care. The board is set to be formed in 2013.

• 66% said the ACA will give physicians less control over their practice decisions.

• 61% said the act will not improve the quality of healthcare.

• 55% said Congress should scrap the ACA and start over.

• 49% said the ACA will give patients less control over their healthcare.

• 35% said the law “did nothing to reform healthcare in the United States.”

• 31% said the ACA doesn’t go far enough and that the country needs a single-payer system.

• 22% said the act goes too far and impedes doctors’ ability to practice medicine.

Responses were not all negative, however:

• 54% of participants said the new law will increase patients’ access to care. The law is expected to result in 13 million new Medicaid enrollees beginning in 2014.

• 12% of responding doctors said the law provides needed healthcare reform.

This survey was conducted online May 25 to June 4. The 2,694 respondents were self-selected. The margin of error for the survey at the 95% confidence level is +/- 1.9%.

The athenahealth/Sermo survey, the third annual Physician Sentiment Index, had 500 doctor respondents representing a wide range of specialties and practice sizes. Answers indicate that an increasing number of physicians are expressing concern about the law’s effect on the quality of care.

Among the survey findings:

• 53% said that the ACA will have a detrimental effect on their ability to provide high-quality care, versus 50% in 2011.

• 29% of respondents said they still do not understand the details and implications of the law, compared with 22% in 2011.

• 26% said they want to see the entire ACA repealed, versus 21% in 2011.

• 20% said that the ACA will be very detrimental to the delivery of quality of care, compared with 14% in 2011.

• 16% said they’d like to see the ACA remain as-is, versus 11% in 2011.

“There is a lot of ‘stuff’ going on in healthcare that is making the noble pursuit of the MD degree a lot less attractive,” says Jonathan Bush, athenahealth chief executive officer and chairman. “Government involvement, ill-designed EHRs, and administrative complexities are encroaching on the sacred relationship between the physician and the patient and the ability for that doctor to be fully present at the point of care.”

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