Buoyed by IT, small practice confidence is up

Sixty percent of physicians in small or medium-sized practices say technology has made things easier for them, and nearly half say business is better this year compared to last, according to a new survey released today by EMR vendor Practice Fusion.



[See also: Small practices look to hosted EHR model.]

But the company's second annual State of the Small Practice report found that administrative costs, insurance and reimbursement issues continue to be big challenges in a fast-evolving healthcare climate defined by government reform, technology mandates and a struggling economy.

Among findings from the poll:

  • Forty-five percent of doctors report that their practice is doing better this year compared to last year, while 14 percent report that their practice is doing worse and 33 percent report no change. (In the 2011 State of the Small Practice Survey, only 26 percent reported that their practice was doing better than the year before, while 41 percent reported doing worse.)
  • Sixty percent of small practices report that new technology has made things easier.
  • Twenty-six percent of practices use computers that are less than a year old. Thirty-eight percent report that the computers in their practice are more than 3 years old – a big improvement from 73 percent the previous year. (Seven percent of practices have computers in the 5 to 6-year-old range, down from 21 percent in 2011.)
  • Eighty-nine percent of doctors report being satisfied or extremely satisfied with their career despite challenges, a 20 percent increase from the year before.
  • Most practices ranked insurance and reimbursement as the top negative pressure (69 percent), followed by patient compliance issues (64 percent) and practice administration concerns (48 percent).
  • Advancements in medicine (68 percent), patient compliance (53 percent) and improvement in the healthcare workforce (51 percent) were among the positive trends cited by docs.

"We are witnessing a transformation in American medicine," said Ryan Howard, CEO of Practice Fusion. "On the one hand, small practice doctors are struggling with rising costs and lower reimbursement rates. On the other hand, technologies such as Practice Fusion's free EMR system are helping thousands of medical practices across the country to increase efficiency, eliminate paper charts, qualify for federal EMR incentives and provide top quality care to their communities."

[See also: Practice Fusion expands, shows signs of rapid growth.]

Practice Fusion's EMR system provides charting, scheduling, e-prescribing, lab integrations and referral letters at zero cost to small and medium-sized ambulatory practices. The 2012 State of the Small Practice study was conducted by an internet survey with a national sample of 1,000 practices gathered through Practice Fusion's platform. Medical providers were asked to provide responses to a series of multiple-choice survey questions based on last year's data. In the previous year, the study was conducted on the MDLinx platform using a national sample of 100 small practice physicians using a series of open-ended questions.