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Physicians’ Pessimism on EHRs, ACOs Grows, Survey Reveals

June 14, 2012
by Gabriel Perna
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According to a recent survey, physicians are more pessimistic than ever over the benefits of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), EHRs, and the future of medicine. The survey, the  third annual Physician Sentiment Index (PSI), conducted by the Watertown, Mass.-based EHR, care coordination, and cloud services vendor and Sermo, a Cambridge, Mass.based online community for physicians, found that physicians are saying they are over-burdened, concerned about the future of medicine, and are increasingly frustrated with having to use EHRs.

"U.S. healthcare is changing rapidly, but time and again policymakers aren't listening to the physician perspective," Jon Michaeli, vice president of membership for Sermo, said in a statement. "As a result physicians feel disempowered to influence change, and hence they are more disenchanted with their profession and less connected to patients than ever. At Sermo, we advocate on behalf of our community by voicing their expert opinions to constituents in the healthcare system and helping this country move towards better patient outcomes, efficiently, at sustainable cost."

The index says that more than half of physicians say that government involvement in regulation will not yield lower costs and better outcomes. Nearly one-third (29 percent) say they still do not understand the details and implications of the ACA, compared to 22 percent in 2011. Fifty-three percent report the ACA will have a detrimental effect on their ability to provide high quality care, versus 50 percent in 2011. ACOs have also felt the impact, 39 percent of physicians say the Accountable Care Organization model draws concern, compared with 26 percent in 2011.

Their sentiment on EHRs is not much friendlier. While 10 percent more purchased an EHR in 2012 than in 2011 (from 70 percent to 80 percent), 18 percent fewer voiced a very favorable opinion of EHRs (from 39 percent in 2011 to 32 percent in 2012). Thirty-six percent more say they believe EHRs somewhat or significantly worsen patient care (from 11 percent in 2011 to 15 percent in 2012. Seventy-two percent reported EHRs as a distraction from face-to-face patient interaction, up 12 percentage points from 2011.

Other findings included 89 percent saying payers have become more intrusive on the patient-physician relationship (87 percent in 2011). Also, 81 percent do not see the future of independent practice as viable, representing 19 percent more doctors in 2012 than 2011. Unchanged from 2011, about two-thirds anticipate that the quality of medicine in the U.S. will decline over the next five years.

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