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Number of Physicians Increases during ACA Era


A recent research effort has uncovered that the number of physicians has actually gone up during the Affordable Care Act era, despite claims to the contrary.

Welcome to Practice Rounds, our weekly column exploring what's being covered in the larger world of healthcare.

More Physicians during ACA Era

According to FactCheck.org, the claim from President Donald Trump that many are leaving the medical field because of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is inaccurate. In fact, the nonprofit research effort - an arm of the Annenberg Public Policy Center, says that there have been more physicians since Congress passed the ACA into law. Citing data from the American Association of Medical Colleges, FactCheck.org says that the number of physicians has gone up 8 percent from 799,501 when the ACA was passed into law in 2010, to 860,939 in 2015. The number of internal medicine and family medicine doctors has gone up more than 4 percent, according to FactCheck.org's analysis.

Faulty Provider Lists a Barrier to Care

Provider directories through health plans in California have created a consumer nightmare, according to research in the journal Health Affairs. The researchers had secret shoppers parse through provider directories offered by payers to set up appointments with primary-care physicians. In only 30 percent of the efforts were consumers able to successfully schedule an appointment with the initial primary-care physician they picked. One of the biggest problems, according to the researchers, was the provider information was often inaccurate. Many times providers were not with the medical group listed or were listed under the wrong specialty. The researchers say that for patients with acute conditions, accessing services was particularly challenging. 

Medical Groups Call for Meaningful Use Relief

The American Medical Association, Medical Group Management Association and 85 other medical groups recently sent a letter to new CMS Administrator, Seema Verma and asked her to reduce the burden and penalties associated with Meaningful Use, the Physician Quality Reporting System, and the Value-based Payment Modifier, Healthcare IT News reports. The programs are in their final year and will be sunset next year to make room for the regulations under Medicare and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA). The groups cited the 21st Century Cures bill, passed in December, which says CMS must craft a strategy to relieve the EHR documentation burden. Specifically, the groups suggested that CMS create a new category for administrative burdens, which would allow providers to find relief from the various regulatory measures.

Telemedicine Adoption Lags in Small Practices

Small practices have not yet adopted telemedicine, according to a survey conducted by SimpleVisit, a telemedicine company based in Baltimore Md., Medical Economics reports. The telemedicine company polled 24 small-practice physicians across different practice models and found that only 17 percent had implemented some form of telemedicine in its practice. Most do see a benefit with the technology, especially for elderly patients. The most common barrier to adopting telemedicine, according to the research, was lack of reimbursement. However, other practices had a perception that telehealth would reduce the quality of care, especially those who operate outside conventional practice style of high-visit volumes with insurance reimbursement.

Quote of the week:

"It's miserable to feel like you are working your tail off, seeing 40-plus patients per day, always be behind on charts, never caught up, and you have 20 different people telling you things that need to be done. You're always two steps behind. [With DPC], I'm two steps ahead,"

Lisa Roark, MD, family physician for a direct primary care (DPC) practice in Cassville, Mo.

Strategies Reducing Physician Burnout

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