Brach Eichler physician survey: More compliance issues mean less time for patient care

Physicians are spending less time with their patients and more time on paperwork.

Those are just two of the takeaways of the Brach Eichler 2019 New Jersey Health Care Monitor, the eighth annual survey of physician practices by the Roseland-based firm.

The survey found a number of interesting tidbits, including reduced reimbursement rates and a lower rate of opioid prescriptions.

Here are some of the key findings:

  • 63% said they were dealing with an increased administrative burden as a result of regulatory or compliance issues (versus 39% in 2015);
  • Nearly 56% of respondents said the changing health care environment has led to reduced reimbursement (versus 27% in 2015);
  • Nearly half said they were spending less time with their patients (versus 16% in 2015);
  • 37% spent more on technology in the last year (versus just 9% in 2015);
  • A little over half of physicians surveyed say they are prescribing fewer opioids to their patients, compared with 43% in 2018.

In spite of these demands, little more than half of all physicians said their practice structure has not changed in the last year (versus 49% in 2018 and 61% in 2015).

John Fanburg, Brach Eichler managing member and Health Care Law Practice chair, summed it up this way:

“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,” he 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 megadeals on the physician community for some time to come.”

In fact, 16% of those physicians surveyed said they did integrate their practice with another health care organization, such as another single or multispecialty practice or hospital, within the last year (versus 32% in 2018 and 37% in 2015), in a continuation of the trend, albeit at a lower rate.

Of those physicians who are considering merging or otherwise modifying their practice, the reasons remained mostly consistent with the 2018 survey, with the desire to reduce expenses and increase cash flow being the most important reasons, followed by the desire to reduce the administrative burden, boost market share and remain competitive.

According to the 2019 study, data privacy continues to be a focus for physicians in terms of how they run their practice in the face of highly publicized technology breaches and cyberattacks. More than 4 in 10 physicians said they are investing in technology, while 40% also said they are conducting more staff training and 20% are creating a new policy and procedures manual in an effort to protect their patients’ data and privacy.

Health Care Law member Joseph Gorrell said opioids continue to be an important topic.

“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,” he said.

Among the survey’s other key findings:

  • 36% of respondents 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;
  • While the media have talked a great deal about new ways to deliver medical care, the vast majority (72%) said they have not considered or are not already delivering medical care in new ways. However, 19% have considered telemedicine, 12% have considered concierge medicine and 4% have considered home-based health care;
  • All of the business and regulatory demands on physicians continue to impact their outlook for their practice. While more than 62% of N.J. 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 going into 2020, followed by increased administrative burden and keeping up with regulatory and compliance demands. Many still also feel pressure to give up their independent practices and face challenges keeping their client base intact.

About the survey: In November 2019, Brach Eichler surveyed 149 physicians, including solo practitioners, members of group practices and employees of health care facilities. To access the full results of the survey, click here.