Foundation Names Top Five 2012 Issues

The Physicians Foundation – a nonprofit organization that seeks to advance the work of practicing physicians and improve the quality of health care for all Americans – has identified five key areas that will impact the practice of medicine next year. The Physicians Watch List for 2012 is based on research the foundation released this year.

The five areas are:

  1. Changing nature of medical practices. Many physicians choose hospital and group settings versus private practice due to the perceived security employed settings offer. Only one-quarter of physicians surveyed said they plan to continue practicing as they are; half said they would adopt a style of practice different from the traditional full-time independent private practice model. In 2012, physicians will need to carefully assess their individual circumstances and determine the practice configuration that best meets their needs and those of their patients.
  2. Decreased return on increased burden. The added regulations and administrative responsibilities based on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) caused physicians to focus less on the patient and more on administrating their practices. Sixty-three percent of physicians surveyed said that nonclinical paperwork caused them to spend less time with their patients, and 94 percent said the time they devote to nonclinical paperwork has increased in the last three years. In 2012, physicians will need to monitor their administrative burdens vigilantly and take steps to minimize any further impact on their relationship with patients.
  3. Acute shortages of primary care physicians. A growing shortage of physicians threatens the medical profession's ability to serve patients across key specialties and geographies. Physicians will need to redefine their roles and rethink delivery models to meet rising demand. The majority of physicians (60 percent) said health system reform will compel them to close or significantly limit their practices to certain categories of patients. Of these, 93 percent said they will close or significantly limit their practices to Medicaid patients, and 87 percent said they would close or significantly restrict their practices to Medicare patients. In 2012, physicians will need to evaluate how they can optimize their time to accommodate the current and future needs of their patients.
  4. Critical need for physician leadership tools/skills. In the health care environment of tomorrow, many physicians will assume greater business and people management responsibilities within practice groups and hospital settings. In 2012, physicians will need to acquire new types of nonmedical leadership skills to be effective in these expanded roles, while still maintaining their trusted relationships with patients.
  5. Impact on patients. The need to provide higher quality in an environment characterized by increased reporting, problematic reimbursement, and high potential liability will place extraordinary stress on physicians, particularly those in private practice. Only one physician in 10 believes that health reform will enhance the quality of care they are able to provide to their patients, compared with 56 percent who believe reform will diminish the quality of care they are able to provide. In 2012, physicians will increasingly need to balance these competing factors in ways that do not compromise the care they provide to patients.

"Proposed changes to our health care system have already significantly impacted physicians and patients," said Louis J. Goodman, PhD, president of The Physicians Foundation and TMA executive vice president/chief executive officer. "We hope the Physicians Watch List helps to address the core issues under the new legislation and offers doctors and the health care community guidance on how to deliver the best care possible to patients in 2012."

The Physicians Foundation is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that seeks to advance the work of practicing physicians and to improve the quality of health care for all Americans. It pursues its mission through a variety of activities including grants, research, and policy impact studies. Since 2005, it has awarded numerous multiyear grants totaling more than $28 million. In addition, the foundation focuses on the following core areas: health system reform, health information technology, physician leadership, workforce needs, and pilot projects. 

Action, Dec. 16, 2011