Profitability or Patient Care: Can the Two Co-exist?

6/10 Doctors are now employed, 6/10 doctors would quit today.

Coincidence? Likely. Nonetheless the recent study published by the Physicians Foundation in their Biennial Survey demonstrated that more physicians are leaving independent practice to join larger groups, or do something else entirely. At the same time the same number of doctors would quit practicing. Today. Although no relationship was established between the two stats, one can’t help but wonder.

Our own research shows that physicians have concerns about being able to remain independent; and worry about declining reimbursements, rising overhead costs and cash flow pressures.

I’m not saying our sample can compare to the data set so professionally assembled by the Physicians Foundation, but I think there’s a story there. Is it control, is it freedom? Probably depends who you ask. I would argue that it’s both. When the same study is examined more closely you see that doctors covet the patient relationship, and happily, that has not changed since the Physicians Foundation last asked the question in 2008. It does, however beg the question that if in a large institution that has greater control over how a doctor practices, can the doctor/patient relationship maintain its relevance? The data would suggest yes. But can doctors really deliver? If they can, then this bodes well for all of us who are patients.

Running your own practice is undeniably more work, stress and heartache. But is it, by its very nature, also more rewarding? Again, let’s consider the doctor’s work situation. Employed physicians are working for a corporate entity. They are measured by the number of patients seen – volume is king. In many ways, as I’ve stated in other articles, they are not unlike lawyers trying to bill as many hours as possible. Both small independent practices and large groups must find ways to stay in business. Both should take a hard look at who they want to be as organizations. Do they want profit for profit’s sake, or do they covet the patient relationship as much, or more? What does and what should drive their behavior? Profits or patients? Could it be both?

Hello Health is offering a Webinar this month that addresses these issues. We’ll discuss uncompensated care, technology and the elusive — but attainable — concept of profitability, and how it does not need to be at odds with the doctor/patient relationship.

We hope you’ll join us!

Hello Health webinar: Looking beyond Meaningful Use: New Revenue Sources for Primary Care Practices

About the Author
Steven Ferguson

Steven Ferguson is the Chief Operating Officer at Hello Health, the complete Cloud-Based EHR, Practice Management System and Patient Portal, that helps practices be more efficient and increase patient engagement.