Study: 5 areas of change for practicing physicians this year

Healthcare professionals across the industry must constantly deal with changes in trends, regulations and policies that affect their medical practices. According to The Physicians Foundation, there are five critical areas that will have significant influence on practicing physicians and their patients over the next year.

The Physicians Foundation's 2015 Physician Watch List is supported with data from its 2014 Biennial Physician Survey of 20,000 physicians and other research.

1. The rapid rate of medical consolidation. The increasing trend of consolidation among hospitals and health systems is making it nearly impossible for smaller, independent medical practices to compete with larger systems, leading to increased costs and the reduction of patient choice, according to the report.

One of physicians' main concerns with consolidation is its effect on their clinical autonomy. According to the report, 69 percent of physicians expressed concerns regarding clinical autonomy and their ability to make the best decisions for the patients they serve.

2. External pressures induce tension between physicians and patients. According to the Foundation's 2014 Biennial Physician Survey, 80 percent of physicians say patient relationships are the most satisfying part of practicing medicine. However, these relationships are being strained by effects of medical consolidation and the increasing emphasis on value-based models of reimbursement.

Increasing amounts of nonclinical administrative tasks and paperwork for physicians, increased time spent negotiating with payers and growing regulatory pressures are forcing physicians to spend less time with patients.

3. Effects of ICD-10 implementation. Half of respondents anticipate ICD-10 will cause severe administrative issues in their practices, according to the Foundation's 2014 Biennial Physician Survey. Furthermore, 75 percent of respondents said the implementation of ICD-10 will cause unnecessary coding complications. They also said it will be highly disruptive and contribute to less time spent with patients.

4. Lack of transparency on the cost of care. According to the study, the lack of transparency and seemingly arbitrary medical costs and billing practices are major source of frustration for patients and physicians alike. When there is no consistency in how certain procedures are priced, physicians are inhibited in their capacity to make the best clinical decisions for patients, while patients' cost fears are aggravated.

5. Decreased access to physician care. Almost half (44 percent) of physicians plan to take steps that would reduce access to their services, according to the Biennial Physician Survey. These would include cutting down patient bases, retiring, working reduced hours, closing their practices to new patients or seeking non-clinical jobs, the study said.

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