Survey Takes the Pulse of 650,000 PhysiciansApril 13, 2012 - By Ed Rabinowitz with Physician's Money Digest
Through a recently launched landmark survey, physicians — 650,000 of them, to be exact — are being given a voice. The Physicians Foundation, a nonprofit, grant-making organization composed of 17 state and three county medical societies, is surveying physicians nationwide to assess their concerns about their practice, determine their morale and gauge their satisfaction level.
But according to Walker Ray, MD, vice president of the Medical Association of Georgia, the survey is much more important than simply determining whether or not physicians are happy.
“In the final analysis, is there a robust, energized medical profession that’s able to meet the demands of current medical practice conditions?” Ray asks, rhetorically. “If the survey indicates that the medical profession feels like it’s in jeopardy, then that urgent message needs to be heard by policymakers and political leaders.”
A Critical Time
Ray points out that trends over the last several years, including market factors and legislation such as the Affordable Care Act, have put additional stress on physicians — particularly those in private practice. Some have responded by opting out of private practice or abandoning medicine completely, further contributing to the already existing physician shortage.
“I think the specter of [the physician shortage] hangs over everything we do,” Ray says. “Seventy-five million baby boomers will become eligible for Medicare over the next 20 or 25 years. The population in the United States is still increasing, and we still have the same number of doctors. How are we going to do all this at less cost?”
The survey to gauge the pulse of the physician population is the third of its kind that the organization has conducted since 2008, and Ray explains that one of the goals is to examine trends.
For example, the survey asks physicians: What is the financial health of your practice? In 2008, just over one-third of respondents — 34% — said their practice was either breaking even or unprofitable. Furthermore, approximately hald said they planned to make changes to their practice, including retiring, becoming hospitalists or seeking a job inside health care unrelated to patient care.
“The commonality there is that all of this would reduce access to patients,” Ray says. “These are the issues we’re concerned about.”