The Physicians Foundation Annual Report 2022
Letter from the President and Chief Executive Officer
As The Physicians Foundation begins our 20th-anniversary year, we take time to celebrate our achievements, while also looking to meet the challenges of the future. The U.S. health care system has rapidly evolved over the past two decades, but we have remained steadfast in supporting physicians as they navigate these changes and continue to strengthen their relationships with patients. Today, the state of the U.S. health care system remains unsustainable, as we look to bring our physicians the support they need and improve health outcomes for all American patients. However, even in the past year alone, our Foundation continues to make remarkable progress on behalf of the profession.
Our 2022 Survey of America’s Physicians confirmed that 9 in 10 physicians wanted to address drivers of health (DOH) for their patients, but 6 in 10 felt that they lacked the time and ability to do so. A groundbreaking milestone to help address this challenge occurred on August 1, 2022 when the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) enacted the first-ever DOH measures in federal payment programs. These measures will allow hospitals to better serve patients holistically and provide quality physical and mental health care. Early in 2023, CMS proposed that one of those measures be included in what the agency has named the “Universal Foundation,” building blocks to align quality reporting across programs. Our country reached this milestone because of the proposal that we submitted to CMS last year on screening rate and screen positive rate measures. These measures align with our practical recommendations to address DOH: Improving America’s Health Care System: Recognize the Realities of Patients’ Lives and Invest in Addressing Drivers of Health.
Additionally, to advance research on the impact of DOH in all aspects of the health care environment, The Physicians Foundation’s Fellowship Program appointed its first fellow, Ryan Lowery, M.D. Throughout his career, Dr. Lowery has dedicated his work to addressing DOH and health equity. His current research seeks to recognize strengths and opportunities for improvement in screening for DOH based on an analysis of physician perspectives.
Another critical area of focus for us has been to combat the main drivers of burnout and improve physician wellbeing by researching how best to redesign systems and practice environments. Our 2022 Survey of America’s Physicians also uncovered that physician burnout remains significantly higher (62%) than in pre-pandemic times (40% in 2018). Physician burnout is a complex challenge that requires a paradigm shift for the health care system to support physicians seeking mental health care without fear of losing their jobs. In March 2022, we saw progress made towards this goal with the passage of the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act, which aims to reduce and prevent suicide, burnout and mental and behavioral health conditions among health care professionals. Additionally, in recognition of National Physician Suicide Awareness (NPSA) Day on September 17, 2022, The Physicians Foundation, Dr. Lorna Breen Heroes’ Foundation and #FirstRespondersFirst continued our collaboration to accelerate systems change to address physician burnout. Through Vital Signs: The Campaign to Prevent Physician Suicide, these organizations galvanized other organizations to act on the system level, so physicians feel supported on an individual level. #NPSADay reached 1.2 million people and received sign-on support from 106 organizations that resulted in a total of 26,000 actions taken to prevent suicide.
Furthermore, we continued to support the publication and promotion of credible research through The Physicians Foundation Center for the Study of Physician Practice and Leadership at Weill Cornell Medicine. We also sponsored the Health Affairs series The Practice Of Medicine, which explores how the practice environment affects physicians and clinicians. For example, one notable article from 2022 examined the complex relationship between physician burnout and the quality and cost of care for Medicare beneficiaries. Additionally, as part of our sponsorship, Health Affairs Editor-in-Chief Alan Weil hosted a webinar after #NPSADay that examined “Physician Burnout, Workforce Strain, and Lessons from COVID-19,” focusing on recent work featured in The Practice of Medicine series and broader issues confronting medical professionals.
Finally, we launched a new partnership with the Milbank Memorial Fund and the Robert Graham Center to develop the first annual “Health of US Primary Care Scorecard” to measure the implementation of high-quality primary care and inform national and state policy. The inaugural report card provided a long overdue measurement tool to track the performance of high-quality primary care nationwide. This initiative was sparked by a publication from the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) Committee, regarding the importance of primary care and the need for a plan to implement high-quality primary care across the U.S.
In 2023, we will continue building on these efforts to ensure that physicians remain the foundation of our health care system, including activating networks to improve understanding and solutions to address key issues of wellbeing and drivers of health for physicians, residents and medical students.
As we stop to reflect on our current health care system and where we want to be after the next 20 years, it remains clear that being a physician today is challenging, but the future of the profession does not have to be. As our health care system continues to evolve, we will remain grounded in our aim to improve physician wellbeing, address DOH and lift the perspectives of physicians. We have a tremendous opportunity to bring understanding to the solutions that are needed for physicians today and tomorrow, so our health care system is strong and sustainable in providing high-quality, cost-efficient health care to all.
Thank you for your ongoing support and commitment.
Gary Price, MD, FACS, President
Robert Seligson, Chief Executive Officer
In 2022, the Foundation’s grant and programmatic expenses amounted to 82% of total expenses compared to 18% for administrative expenses. The Foundation invested approximately $2 million to advance physician leadership and protect physicians’ wellbeing, assert physicians as thought leaders on health care reform, the drivers of health, practice models/reform and other topics affecting physician wellbeing and the physician-patient relationship. Our grants program continued to foster leadership skills and improve wellbeing among America’s physicians. We invested $675,000 to support physician leadership, approximately $991,000 to support physician wellbeing and approximately $375,000 to improve solutions for physicians to address DOH.
To accomplish our strategic goals, the Foundation practices financial stewardship with the utmost care. The Finance Committee of the Foundation meets on a bi-monthly basis by phone and/or in person to ensure the financial solvency and future strength of the organization. For more than fifteen years, the base endowment has remained steady, while annually supporting innovative grantmaking and research programs.