America's "Cautiously Optimistic" Doctors

Greg Kelly

American physicians today are "cautiously optimistic" about the financial and operational health of their medical practices, according to a recent survey of more than 5,000 doctors nationwide.

“The basis of optimism is sheer terror.”

—Oscar Wilde

A summary of my physician-dad’s medical career might be that he did well (for himself) and did good (for others). No small accomplishment that.

But none of it would have been possible were he not a successful physician. He was. “Medicine is a business, Gregory,” dad frequently reminded me. And a business, of course, must have profits. My father’s example as a doctor is that it could be done and done well. He built and sustained a quality medical practice through hard work, dedication, sacrifice, and some luck. Optimism didn’t hurt.

American physicians today are “cautiously optimistic” about the financial and operational health of their medical practices, according to a recent survey of more than 5,000 doctors nationwide.

The CareCloud Practice Profitability Index also shows that “physicians across the board are investing in practice operations to counter continued regulatory challenges, financial pressures, and administrative burdens.” At its foundation, the report concludes: “the share of physicians looking ahead with positive or steady profitability expectations is growing, while the share convinced of a downward path is declining.”

Here are some other keys points found in the survey:

Moderate profitability. The survey shows signs of stabilization as physicians adapt to healthcare reform: 35% say things will stay the same and about 25% see a positive upswing for their income. Solid improvement over 2014 expectations.

• Pressure points. The bad news is that practice profitability continues to face major challenges. Surveyed doctors say they are tested by declining reimbursement (62%), rising practice costs (55%), transitioning to ICD-10 (52%), the ongoing impact of Obamacare (44%), and EHR incorporation (35%).

Staying put. Nearly 60% of doctors say they are not looking to sell or merge their practice. Just 8% are “actively looking to sell.” Those doctors who do want to sell are feed up with excessive administrative work, declining profits, and growing government regulation.

• Improvement answers. Physicians looking to position their practice for future success are focusing on three main areas: billing/collections processes (40%), staffing (34%), and technology (33%). Most doctors question their “current staff, technology, and processes to effectively secure quick and proper payment.”

• Paperwork vs. patients. Doctors still want relief from the mounting administrative duties that take vital time away from patients: 70% spend at least 1 day per week on paperwork instead of treating patients.

“Rip and replace.” The survey showed a continuing trend of practices looking to upgrade health information technology: 13% plan to replace their EHR system, 13% plan to adopt better analytics solutions, 10% plan start an EHR system, and 10% want to outsource billing/collections.

Improving integration. When it comes to the reasons why practices are beefing up IT capabilities, it’s because their current systems do not integrate with other technologies (39%), are hard to use/or too slow (37%), and are not cost-effective (33%).

Analytics angle. Doctors are onboard for the growing role of analytics in helping them to understand, monitor, and improve their operations and financial results. Some 40% are making or plan to make an investment or upgrade in this department.

Hopes and dreams. When asked what things in healthcare made them feel positive, the doctor went right to doing more things to help patients. Improving mobile technology also spiked high.