Blog | Wednesday, January 19, 2011

QD: News Every Day--Physicians more pessimistic than patients about health care reform

While public opposition to health care reform has diminished since its passage, physician opinions are still negative, especially among specialists who see their value to the health care system decreasing as reform emphasizes primary care.

A survey reports that 65% of nearly 3,000 physicians in all specialties said the quality of health care in the country will deteriorate in the next five years. 17% of respondents believe the quality of health care will stay the same and 18% believe it will improve. Meanwhile, 30% of health care consumers believe that the quality of health care will improve.

Physicians cited as reasons for their pessimism personal political beliefs, anger at insurance companies and a lack of accurate planning in the reform act. Other reasons include that primary care physicians won't have the time to keep up with the extra workload, forcing more patients to depend upon nurse practitioners for primary care. When asked who will likely handle the 32 million Americans expected to receive health care following passage of the reform, 44% said primary care physicians will handle the load and 44% said that nurse practitioners will see them. (Physicians could vote for more than one category; options includes physicians assistants and specialists, for example.)

Among all physician respondents, 58% said health care reform would have a negative impact on patient care, 15% said it would have no effect and 27% said it would have a positive impact. Pediatricians and psychiatrists were the most optimistic, with 45% and 48% respectively believing that health care reform will have a positive effect. They were closely followed by primary care physicians (including family practitioners and internists), although more than half of this group expected health care reform would have a negative effect. Specialists in cardiology, dermatology, gastroenterology, and obstetrics/gynecology were more likely to believe health care would have a negative effect on patient care. Nearly 70% of surgeons felt so, and nearly 75% of ophthalmologists believed so.

The survey, which is ominously called "The 2011 National Physicians Survey Frustration and Dismay in a Time of Change," was conducted by HCPlexus, a health care consulting firm. Nearly 3,000 physicians (more than 900 of whom were in primary care) in all states and all specialties were asked about their perceptions of health care reform. The data was then tied to consumer health care opinion surveys done by Thomson Reuters.