Young doctors' outlook on the future of healthcare is gloomy

The Affordable Care Act weighs heavily on the minds of young doctors says a new study by the Physicians Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports doctors.

Fifty-seven percent of surveyed doctors said they are pessimistic about the future of the healthcare system in the United States, citing the ACA as their number one reason for their gloomy outlook.

“I am skeptical that everything that the Accountable Care Act is stating that it will accomplish will actually occur,” said Kevin Joseph, MD, 37, vice president of UC Health and CEO and president of UC Health West Chester Hospital in Ohio. “I don’t think the health savings will be what they’re proposed to be. I think that it’s also going to cost more to implement their plans and what is expected.”

Five hundred physicians age 40 and younger were surveyed by Medical Marketing Research on behalf of the Physicians Foundation. The purpose of the survey was to create a profile of young physicians in terms of their practice arrangements and attitudes and opinions about the healthcare system. Of the 500 surveyed, 250 were primary care physicians, 175 were medical/surgical and 75 were hospital-based specialists.

Forty-nine percent of doctors said they believed the ACA will negatively impact their practice of medicine while 23 percent looked at the ACA in a more positive light. Twenty-nine percent were neutral about the ACA’s impact on their practice of medicine.

While the ACA may increase the quality and coordination of care, said Joseph, overall, it doesn’t bode well for the healthcare system.

“As more burden is shifted to healthcare providers and there’s more, I guess, difficulties with the delivery of healthcare, that’s going to mean less individuals want to become a physician,” he said. “More people are going to leave the field, and I think that the expertise that we currently have, the innovation, will decrease over time.”

Kamal Patel, 37, a radiation oncologist at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America’s Midwestern Regional Medical Center in northern Illinois is more optimistic about the future of healthcare but understands the unease his fellow medical professionals are feeling.

“A lot of it comes out of confusion and uncertainty,” he said. “Any time there’s confusion and uncertainty people are going to be more cautious and that can affect both patient care and overall status of a physician.”

The high percentage of doctors in the survey saying they feel pessimistic about the future of healthcare may have more to do with expectations coming down to earth, said Lou Goodman, PhD, president of the Physicians Foundation and CEO of the Texas Medical Association.