Blog | Tuesday, September 25, 2012

QD: News Every Day--Doctors retreating from full-time practice in a 'silent exodus''

Physicians are working 6% fewer hours than they did four years ago and are seeing close to 17% fewer patients per day, a survey found.

Tracking the many ways that physicians intend to change their practice patterns, the survey continued that more 44,000 physician full-time equivalents will be lost over the next four years. And, doctors currently spend nearly one-quarter of their time on non-clinical paperwork, the equivalent of some 165,000 FTEs.

Further, the survey indicates that more than half of physicians plan to change their practice patterns over the next one to three years, either cutting back on patients seen, switching to a concierge practice, working part-time or finding a non-clinical job.

And, 100,000 physicians may transition from practice-owner to employed status over the next four years, such as working in a hospital.

The survey was conducted by e-mail from late March to early June 2012 among 630,000 physician e-mail addresses, or about 84% of the approximately 750,000 physicians in active patient care in the U.S. There were 13,575 respondents. The survey was commissioned by The Physicians Foundation and conducted by the physician search firm Merritt Hawkins.

These changes in practice patterns amount to a "silent exodus" from the workforce, the Physicians Foundation announced in its press release.

In other findings, the survey reported 52% of physicians have limited the number Medicare patients among their panels, while 26% have already closed their practices to Medicaid patients, the survey shows. Physicians cited rising operating costs, time constraints and diminishing reimbursement as the primary reasons why.