Private doc practices dwindling fast

December 16, 2014 in Medical Technology

Private physician practices will soon be a thing of the past according to a new survey that shows them dwindling year over year as more doctors opt to become part of a hospital or health system.

EHR company athenahealth announced survey results from the ninth annual Epocrates Future Physicians of America survey, in which more than 1,400 medical students shared their opinions about medical school training and industry challenges. The survey conducted by athenahealth and Epocrates highlighted key findings and trends.

[See also: Survey shows future docs all about IT.]

Among them: Students seek the security of large provider employment.

The percentage of medical students who will seek employment with a hospital or large group practice has risen to 73 percent, while the percentage of those who aspire to private practice has dwindled to 10 percent – a 50 percent drop since 2008. Students cited a desire for work-life balance and a work environment free of administrative hassle as factors that drove their feedback.

Also noted by nearly 60 percent of medical students was a dissatisfaction with the instruction they received related to practice management and ownership, as well as a lack of training for billing and coding.
Arvind Ravinutala, a third-year student at University of Southern California School of Medicine, commented on the survey that the current system provides few incentives to pursue private practice.

“Training is structured around group and hospital settings, so the average student learns nothing about running a practice,” he wrote. “Plus, hospital employers promise candidates a stress-free environment where they can focus on being a doctor without incurring further debt. For most, the choice is obvious.”

[See also: Are med schools failing future docs?.]

  • Other key findings of the survey include:
  • Seventy-three percent of respondents will seek employment with a hospital or large group practice, with those aspiring to join a private practice dropping to 10 percent, a 50 percent decline since 2008.
  • Care coordination is in: 96 percent of respondents believe effective collaboration across the care team is essential to deliver high-quality care, and nearly 60 percent consider lack of communication between care teams to be the biggest obstacle to effective care coordination.
  • Tech tools are key: 75 percent of students surveyed predict fluid sharing of data between EHRs will advance healthcare within next 10 years, but believe current tools are inadequate and impede efforts to provide continuity of care.
  • Business skills are lacking: Approximately 60 percent of medical students expressed dissatisfaction with the instruction they receive related to practice management and ownership, as well as a lack of training for billing and coding.

Michael Douglas, a third-year student at Loma Linda University of Medicine in California, is worried by the absence of adequate technology to bridge the communication gap.

“Communication tools are broken or antiquated, and this impedes our ability to provide continuity of care for patients,” he said in a news release. “Despite a clear need for quick, efficient and secure ways to communicate with and across teams, we’re still stuck in the 90′s using archaic paging systems and fax machines.”

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