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Eroding Profits Fuel Physician Interest in Selling Practices

MIAMI – If you find yourself worrying more and more about declining profits for your practice, you are not alone.

The Practice Profitability Index (PPI) finds that U.S. physicians are more than twice as likely to foresee eroding, not increasing, profits in 2014. Survey respondents reporting a negative outlook increased from 36% to 39% from 2013-14, while those with a positive view declined from 22% to 19%.

The PPI began in 2013 as part of a partnership between cloud-based health technology provider, CareCloud, and QuantiaMD, the largest social learning network for physicians. The report uses an interactive online survey and related discussion groups to gather insights on the state of medical practice in the United States, with the second annual PPI including responses from more than 5,000 physicians.

The survey found the biggest issues affecting finances include declining reimbursements (60%); rising costs (50%); requirements from the Affordable Care Act (49%); and the transition to ICD-10(43%).

”The past year has been a turbulent one for U.S. physicians,” write the authors of the report, which covers 2014. “Since the last PPI report, long- anticipated waves of reform – particularly the introduction of the Affordable Care Act – have begun to reach physicians and impact their daily lives. Others, most notably the transition to ICD-10 and meeting Meaningful Use Stage 2 guidelines, are now at hand. These stand to have significant impact on how physician practices operate.”

In terms of reimbursement, only 11% of the physicians responding said they expect a boost from payment models such as fee-for-value/accountable care contracts. Yet almost a third said they were facing the cost and hassles of replacing at least one element of their core technology platform in the year ahead – the biggest complaints were cost (36%); usability (31%); non-compliance with ICD-10/meaningful use (31%); and a lack of vendor innovation.

Furthermore, the portion of doctors spending more than one day a week on paperwork shot up between 2013 and 2014, from 58% to 70%. Nearly one-quarter (23%) spend more than 40% of their time on administration, up from 15% last year, according to the report.

For an increasing percentage, 21% in 2013 compared to 24% in 2014, the solution is to consider selling their practices. At the same time, the percentage of physicians insisting that they would remain independent dropped from 60% to 53%.

On a more positive note, 40% of physicians indicated patient engagement programs hold the greatest promise for practice performance in the future. Examples include disease management and population health efforts focused on high-risk populations.