Serving Medical Professionals by Understanding Practice Patterns

Serving Medical Professionals by Understanding Practice Patterns

Most everyone agrees that the medical profession has changed dramatically in recent years. But for professionals who work with doctors, such as pharmaceutical representatives and training vendors, it is essential to understand exactly what has changed, both in practical terms and in attitudes. By understanding how doctors are currently operating their practices, as well as their overall perspectives on the industry, vendors can better explain how their solutions can help doctors provide quality care to their patients. The Practice Patterns survey, produced by the Physicians Foundation, which surveyed 13,575 physicians, provides valuable insight into the daily work life of today’s doctors.

One of the biggest changes in recent years is that, overall, doctors are seeing significantly fewer patients than they used to. Doctors now see 16.6 percent fewer patients than in 2008. The Physicians Foundation concluded that this decrease could result in tens of millions of fewer patients seen per year. Some of this is the result of doctors’ reporting that they worked 5.9 percent less than in 2008, which nationwide means a reduction of 44,250 full-time equivalents from the physician workforce. The fact that doctors also spend more than 22 percent of their time on nonclinical paperwork further reduces the amount of time patients spend with their doctors, as well as the number of patients who are seen. An increase is not likely in the near future, with over half of doctors planning a reduction of their patient load in the next few years, by going part time or adopting a concierge philosophy.

The sweeping changes in the insurance industry, as well as the Affordable Care Act, have also played a role in practice patterns. The research shows that 26 percent of doctors have stopped seeing Medicare patients, and another 52 percent have reduced the number of Medicare patients they care for. This will also have an impact on patient and practice demographics. The majority of physicians (59 percent) think the Affordable Care Act is not a move in the right direction.

The most startling result of the study is the change in doctors’ overall attitude about the medical industry. The overwhelming majority of them (84 percent) say that the medical field is declining, and over half would not encourage their children to become physicians. A reported 60 percent of doctors would retire today if money were not a concern. This is a very telling statistic about the attitudes of most doctors. Vendors can improve the quality of service they provide to physicians by understanding their current state of mind as well as the reasons for this shift.