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The Physicians Foundation Releases Next Generation Physician Survey

Young Physicians Pessimistic About Future of U.S. Healthcare

Boston, MA, April 11, 2012— Fifty-seven percent of young physicians (40 years of age and under) are pessimistic about the future of the U.S. healthcare system, according to a new survey by The Physicians Foundation, a nonprofit organization that seeks to advance the work of practicing physicians and improve the healthcare system in America.

Young physicians cited “the new healthcare law” as the leading reason for their pessimism. Specifically, when asked about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), nearly twice as many respondents believe that the legislation will hurt their practices compared to those who think it will have a positive effect (49 percent and 23 percent, respectively).  Conversely, only four percent are “highly optimistic” about the PPACA. Other reasons cited for physician pessimism include concern over increased regulatory burdens and medical liability insurance premiums
“Our nation needs the best and brightest going into medicine. Therefore it is critical that we pay close attention to the sentiments of America’s next generation of physicians,” said Lou Goodman, Ph.D., President of the Physicians Foundation and CEO of the Texas Medical Association.  “The level of pessimism among young doctors today is troubling and reinforces the notion that physicians need to be key participants in health policy discussions.”

Only 35 percent of these newly minted physicians consider themselves “highly satisfied” with their current practice arrangements.  For more than half of the respondents (65 percent), financial considerations, including income and cash flow, were the primary drivers in choosing their current practice arrangements.  A quarter (25 percent) of survey respondents noted that they chose their current arrangement because it was “the only job available.”

If given the opportunity, more than 40 percent of young primary care physicians would opt to be sole owners or partners in a group.  Only 12 percent of physicians who are currently employees of large hospital groups would stay in their current position.  In addition, the young hospital-based physicians represented in the survey anticipate staying in their current position only two years or less. However, a majority of other physicians surveyed indicated that they expect to stay in their practices for eight years or more, including PCPs and medical / surgical office-based doctors

“Physicians who are just starting out must face the considerable challenge of massive student debt,” said Dr. Walker Ray, Vice President of The Physicians Foundation and chair of the Research Committee.  “Through this survey and our ongoing work with practicing physicians, the Foundation has noted a growing sense among new doctors that they will never experience the autonomy and independence of previous generations.  If you combine these factors with the overall uncertainty driven by healthcare reform, it is easy to appreciate the confusion and frustration of young practitioners.”

This survey, fielded in December 2011, is based on responses from 500 physicians, 40 years of age and under, across the United States. It was conducted online by Medical Market Research.

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