Poll: Top health care issues you will face in 2009 as a practicing physician

Welcome listeners from ReachMD! I am pleased to be hosting the ReachMD Poll, where I will introduce a topic on-air and you can have your say and vote on important health issues.

Health care reform is imminent, and the coming year will present many challenges for the medical profession. What are the top health care issues that you will face in 2009 as a practicing physician?

Here are a few that come to mind.

Physician reimbursement. Medicare is soon scheduled to cut physician payments in excess of 20 percent and cash-strapped states are slashing Medicaid reimbursements. At a time when the costs of running a practice are increasing, this blow would cripple many practices. Linking physician pay to patient outcomes, so-called pay for performance, is one often-discussed approach to mitigate the payment cuts. This has been controversial as the reward in payment is not commensurate with the costs of implementing the systems to measure performance.

Physician shortage. President-elect Barack Obama’s goal of covering every American is noble. But there is a well-known primary care shortage, with only 2 percent of Internal Medicine residents pursuing primary care, and patients waiting months for an appointment. Without physician access, newly insured patients will flood the already crowded emergency departments, further driving up spending.

Adoption of electronic medical records. The transition to digital records would cost hundreds of billions of dollars, with doctors bearing the brunt of the expense. That’s why despite the potential advantages, such as reduction of medical errors and cost savings, only 13 percent of physicians have made the transition to electronic records.

Rising malpractice premiums. Obstetricians are refusing to deliver babies. And there is an exodus of physicians to states with a friendly malpractice climate. Patients lose as physician access dwindles. With nowhere to turn, they are likely to delay care. Or go to the emergency department, where the most expensive care often takes place.

And one that didn’t make the cut, but still important:

Transparency of health costs. More patients are subject to high deductible health plans, a trend that will surely increase as businesses look to curb health premiums. There is currently no reliable way to find out how much tests and treatments cost. Depriving patients the opportunity to make informed choices about their care.

If I didn’t cover your issue, you can add it in the comments below, or call into the ReachMD Listener Line at 888-639-6157 and record your comments (portions of which may air).

I encourage you to vote in this week’s poll, located in the upper right column of the blog.

Please suggest future ReachMD Poll topics by emailing [email protected]

topics: reimbursement, shortage, emr, malpractice, transparency

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