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And the Survey Says…

by athenahealth Blogmaster,

Last year around this time, we launched the first Physician Sentiment Index in partnership with Sermo to tap into physician feelings about the practice of medicine. We like to call this survey the “PSI” because we really think of it as a measure of the pressures coming at doctors from every side.

We found that physicians were anxious about trying to provide care while running the business of their practice, anxious about pending reforms and pessimistic about the future of medicine. There was a sense among doctors that they had lost some control over their profession.

This year:

  • 58% are familiar with Meaningful Use and of those participating in the program, 67% think they can achieve it
  • Fewer docs see a financial upside or improved care compared to the price tag of an EHR
  • 68% were not optimistic about the viability of solo or small groups (vs. 62% last year)
  • Confidence that EHRs will reduce errors has dropped this year
  • 46% thought EHRs were designed with doctors in mind, down from 51% last year
  • Only 17% believe the quality of medicine will improve in the next five years compared to 18% last year

When we saw the results for this year—you can read them all here—the first thing we noticed is that there’s some consistency to the pessimism. Now that we all know a little more about health care reform, most docs just don’t believe that these new rules and programs will help patient care too much. This year it really comes across that there’s an overall sense of uncertainty about the future of health care and some question about how all of it will be paid for.

It’s interesting to see that 67% are confident they can meet Meaningful Use with their EHR. Based on what we know other vendors have (not) done for their clients in this regard, we frankly think they’re overconfident…the other shoe is about to drop. As we’ve said in this blog in recent weeks, this is the time where the rubber meets the road and physicians are learning that attempting to achieve Meaningful Use with an ill-equipped EHR could amount to a costly hassle – if not an outright failure.

We’re also struck by the unawareness about Accountable Care Organizations. Only half are familiar with ACOs, some 11% of the respondents have never heard of them and 29% have heard the term but don’t know anything about them. Doctors might want to bone up fast because it could change how they get paid!  Even those who are familiar with ACOs aren’t exactly eager. The majority have a “neutral to negative outlook regarding the potential impact of a shift to ACO models.”

Finally, and perhaps most striking, 50% of docs actually think health care reform will be detrimental to patient care.  Why do they think that? More importantly, what do you think? If you weren’t part of the survey, share your sentiments by sending in a comment to the blog.

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