Survey: Physicians struggle with data privacy, opioid crisis, reduced reimbursements

The changing health care environment over the last four years has resulted in more physicians spending less time with patients and struggling with reduced reimbursement rates, according to the Brach Eichler’s 2019 Survey of New Jersey Healthcare Practitioners. Data privacy, prescribing opioids and administrative burdens are also on the radar.

The survey of 149 physicians found:

  • 63% are dealing with increased administrative burdens as a result of regulatory or compliance issues, compared to 39% in 2015;
  • 56% said the changing health care environment has led to reduced reimbursement (27% in 2015);
  • 50% said they were spending less time with their patients (16% in 2015);
  • 38% spent more on technology in the last year (9% in 2015);
  • 51% said they are prescribing fewer opioids to their patients (43% in 2018).

However, half of all physicians (50%) said their practice structure has not changed in the last year (49% in 2018, 61% in 2015).

Brach Eichler LLC
John Fanburg is managing member at Brach Eichler and chair of its Health Care Law Practice.

“In 2019, we saw significant transactions continue to shape New Jersey’s health care marketplace such as Summit Medical Group’s merger with New York City-based urgent care system CityMD, as well as continued hospital consolidations,” John D. Fanburg, managing member and Health Care Law Practice chair, Brach Eichler, said. “While many physician practice groups already completed mergers and acquisitions in recent years, we still are likely to see the ripple effects of this year’s mega deals on the physician community for some time to come.”

About 16% of those surveyed said they integrated their practice with another health care organization within the last year (32% in 2018, 37% in 2015). Of those physicians considering a merge, most said the desire to reduce expenses and increase cash flow was the most important reason, followed by reducing administrative burdens, boosting market share and to remain competitive.

The study found data privacy is a big concern for physicians in terms of how they run their practice. To protect their patient data as well as their own, about 43% of physicians said they are investing in new technology, 40% are focused on staff training and 20% are creating new policies and procedures.

Opioids are also top of mind.

“The nation’s opioid crisis has captured the attention of New Jersey’s physicians, as well, with more than half (52%) of the respondents prescribing them less often and suggesting alternatives, and 29% taking greater care to document patient and prescription data, according to this year’s survey,” Joseph Gorrell, health care law member, Brach Eichler, said.

Among the survey’s other key findings:

  • 36% said they haven’t felt any impact from the now 18-month-old out-of-network law; 30% weren’t sure yet, and 14% said their reimbursement had been reduced;
  • A vast majority (72%) said they have not considered or are not already delivering medical care in new ways, 19% have considered telemedicine, 12% have considered concierge medicine and 4% have considered home-based health care;
  • More than 62% of physicians have a neutral, favorable or very favorable outlook for their practice, nearly 38% had an unfavorable or very unfavorable view;
  • Reduced reimbursement is physicians’ biggest concern about their practices going into 2020, followed by increased administrative burden and keeping up with regulatory and compliance demands.