Taking the Pulse…of Primary Care Physicians

At Hello Health, we have both a unique opportunity and a distinct privilege to be able to sit down with primary care physicians across the country and talk about what keeps them up at night, how they perceive electronic medical records, what their goals are for their practice, their patients and much more.  Typically, we meet over dinner and have a discussion over the Hello Health EMR-based business model. Yes, we are selling, but foremost we are listening. We have to. We want to. It is only by understanding the pressures facing today’s primary care physician that we can provide meaningful solutions above and beyond meaningful use (download Hello Health’s free Guide to Understanding Meaningful Use). And above and beyond the traditional EMR paradigm.

So what are primary care physicians saying? What can we learn from weekly opportunities to connect with family practitioners, internists, integrative medicine practitioners and pediatricians? The following data reflects over 80 responses we have received recently to two questions in our survey.

What is the biggest problem your practice must address over the next 1- 3 years?

An overwhelming majority of our responses relate to one of two topics: practice financials and the electronic medical record. 36% stated an issue related to revenue or practice financials. Comments included concerns about being able to remain independent, declining reimbursements, rising overhead costs and cash flow pressures. 37% commented that selecting, affording, implementing, and integrating an electronic medical record is the biggest problem their practice must address in this time period. And 6% of respondents indicated patient satisfaction and service was their biggest challenge.

Thinking about this challenge, how do you look at the role of electronic medical records to address this need, or does it at all?

Physicians doubt whether an EMR is considered more of a solution or a key problem. In our recent surveys, 29% of respondents either consider an EMR as a solution in a broad sense or point specifically to opportunities for an EMR to increase efficiency (15%), increase revenue (8%) and to improve practice organization (6%).  In contrast, 33% of physician respondents to this survey stated that the EMR would not be helpful to addressing the biggest problem their practice faces. This suggests that for many physicians, an EMR is just not considered in the context of improving practice financials.

So where does this lead us?

While these results reflect only a microcosm of the primary physician universe, responses to our survey as well as feedback communicated at Hello Health hosted physician events indicate that physicians we are encountering are tired of the status quo and are recognizing that they must change to sustain their practice. Practice financial concerns loom large. EMRs are looked at as either an anchor or a buoy. Patient service and satisfaction issues are not on the front burner to the same degree. Given the realities of the incentives and penalties associated with EMR adoption decisions, it is important for practices to look beyond solutions which are defined largely by digitizing paper records and to ask how the technology can be a catalyst for further practice transformation, including being a channel for incremental revenue and an opportunity to create a remarkable patient experience.

About the Author
Stephen Armstrong

Stephen Armstrong is senior vice president for Hello Health, the revenue generating EHR platform for primary care practices supporting practice vitality through patient engagement.