Will Healthcare Reform Negatively Affect the Quality of Care?

///Will Healthcare Reform Negatively Affect the Quality of Care?

Healthcare reform is a hotly debated topic across the country. Last week, we explored how healthcare reform has affected women during the past two years. While there are some positive aspects to the reform, physicians – key players in the medical field – have concerns about the impact on the quality of healthcare.

Majority of Doctors Concerned About Quality of Care

Many health professionals are concerned about the quality of healthcare moving forward. Thomson Reuters and HCPLexus conducted the 2011 National Physicians Survey at the end of 2010, which yielded some troublesome findings.

According to the survey, 65 percent of the nearly 3,000 doctors surveyed believe that the quality of healthcare during the next five years will deteriorate.

Fifty-seven percent of physicians say that the Affordable Care Act will have a negative impact on patients and 78 percent say that the act will have a negative impact on them, according to the survey.

A more recent survey conducted by the Physicians Foundation in December of 2011 indicates that feelings haven’t changed in the past year. The Physicians Foundation polled physicians 40 years and younger, who are mostly pessimistic about the future of America’s healthcare system.

When it comes to the Affordable Care Act, 49 percent in the Physicians Foundation survey believe the impact on their practice will be negative, and more than half (57 percent) are pessimistic about the future of the U.S. healthcare system.

Respondents were able to provide free-response reasons for their pessimism. One such answer got to the heart of the problem:

“I do not feel optimistic because of all the increased regulatory burdens on physicians. There will be an increased shortage of physicians to provide primary care and decreased access to care.”

The Main Concern: Will Supply Meet Demand?

Doctors are concerned that the sudden influx of patients will be too great for the current number of healthcare professionals.

“Questions have been raised as to whether there will be a sufficient supply of physicians and other health professionals to serve the nation, especially in light of concerns that the nation was facing potentially significant shortages even before health care reform,” reads a report from the Association of American Medical Colleges.

Taking into account the final Affordable Care Act provisions, the AAMC “project[s] an overall shortage of 91,500 and 130,600 active patient care physicians in 2020 and 2025 respectively, and a primary care shortage of 45,400 and 65,800 physicians in 2020 and 2025.”

If the demand is too great, the result will be overworked physicians that don’t have enough time to properly treat every patient – a decrease in the quality of care for everybody.

“The message [doctors have] taken from healthcare reform appears to be ‘do more with less.’ Doctors are telling us they feel disenfranchised and overburdened,” said David Shrier, CEO of HCPLexus.

Will there be enough physicians to accommodate the influx of patients? Only time will tell, but from where doctors are sitting, they’re not expecting good results – for themselves or their patients.