Doctors Working Less as Flood of New Patients Looms

October 24, 2012

It is no longer news that the new health care law creates sweeping changes to the nation's health care system. However, discussion of the implications of the new health care law has been theoretical, with no one knowing exactly what to expect, until now. In anticipation of the effects of the new health care law, physicians are starting to alter their work habits, says Bruce Japsen of Forbes.

  • Doctors are working 6 percent fewer hours and treating 17 percent fewer patients than they were four years ago.
  • At this pace, 44,000 physicians could be lost over the next four years.
  • However, these physicians are going to be crucial to treat the 30 million new patients over the next few years as a result of the new health care law.
  • Only one-third of physicians surveyed said they'd be independent by next year.
  • The same survey found that more than half of current doctors plan to change their practices by either cutting hours, cutting back on the number of patients they treat, or seeking employment elsewhere.

This trend is problematic considering that there will be a short supply of doctors to cover an almost endless demand. Most of the burden will be placed on primary care doctors like internists and family physicians.

Many doctors are choosing to sell their practices to larger health care networks or hospitals so they don't have to deal with the new requirements of the health care overhaul. These include things like upgrading their practice or spending more money on installing electronic medical records.

In addition, doctors are demanded by the law to create a team approach to medical care so as to increase the quality of care for patients while making doctors more accountable. This incentivizes insurance companies to bundle payments to doctor practices for keeping patients out of hospitals. However, this approach has contributed to the increase in doctors opting out of their practice in favor of working in a hospital or starting a concierge practice.

Source: Bruce Japsen, "Docs Working Less as Flood ff New Patients Looms," Forbes, October 8, 2012.

 

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