For some physicians, 2012 may be either the best of times, or the worst of times. But mostly, the New Year promises to bring uncertain times to the profession.
Sure, intriguing possibilities lie ahead for physicians who embrace IT, or physicians who seek and gain hospital employment. But what of those doctors who are installing a $60,000 EMR system in their small practice, then can't figure out the system?
And what lurks for physicians who labor under the ongoing threat of reduced Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements?
Amid the ambiguity about the business of being a doctor, "there is much despair among the physician population," says Lou Goodman, PhD, president of The Physicians Foundation, a non-profit formed with a $115 million endowment.
The foundation seeks to advance the work of practicing physicians by conducting research and policy studies that impact both practicing physicians and healthcare. Goodman is also CEO of the Texas Medical Association.
His organization's Physicians Watch List for 2012 focuses on issues likely to impact doctors this year, from the changing nature of medical practices to acute shortages of primary care physicians. Never mind the various physician alignment strategies being negotiated, and the flurry of regulatory requirements ahead.
"The ground is changing; it's really a shifting sand," Goodman says. "Physicians want to stay in a stable medical practice, but it's hard for them to make decisions under the economic climate. They might have thought about hiring an additional nurse, or partner, or an assistant, but they aren't doing it. They aren't adding more examining rooms and they aren't expanding. And they are joining hospital systems if they can."