At his doctor’s office last week, John Fanburg noticed a timer outside the examination room – tapped by the doctor on his way in and then back out.

As the chairman of the law firm Brach Eichler’s health-care practice, he understood why: Practices owned by larger groups and hospital systems keep track of how long doctors spend with each patient.

Results of annual survey by his law firm released this week says 61 percent of doctors say it’s an issue, four times more than in 2015 and up for the third straight year.

“There is a lot of pressure on health care providers today, patients’ physicians, to see as many patients as is possible during the course of the day because of low reimbursement,” said Fanburg, managing partner at Brach Eichler.

“It’s not as if the employer wants them to spend as little as possible because there’s a tipping point whereby to provide good care, you have to talk to the patient, listen to the patient, of course examine the patient,” Fanburg said. “But there is pressure to see as many patients as possible per hour per day.”

The survey finds that the opioid crisis has impacted how many doctors prescribe medication, although more than 40 percent say it hasn’t changed anything.

Forty-three percent of doctors surveyed say they now prescribe opioids less often, says managing partner John Fanburg. Thirty percent say they’re taking greater care to record all prescriptions in electronic medical records.

“The good physicians, the smart physicians, as well as the physicians who’ve learned a lesson are prescribing less as well and trying to prescribe alternatives,” Fanburg said.

One thing they’re watching is how the marijuana debate unfolds in Trenton, Fanburg said.

“A lot of my physician colleagues and friends believe that cannabis could be an important alternative to prescription of opioids,” he said.

Still, 71 percent of doctors said they have no plans to prescribe medical cannabis despite the relaxed regulatory environment. Twenty percent are taking a wait-and-see approach, while 6 percent expect to prescribe it more.

Fanburg says a number of doctors see marijuana as a way to step down from harder drugs, not a gateway to them. But he says others won’t be comfortable until there are more scientific studies, which are currently limited because cannabis is a Schedule 1 drug.

“Depending on the age of the physicians who are responding, cannabis still has a significant stigma to it in light of the war on drugs that’s been going on for many decades. So there could be some cultural bias in answering that question,” Fanburg said.

Despite all the challenges and changes, 60 percent of doctors surveyed said they would recommend the profession to a young person, which is more than last year.

“It may not be the economic benefit that it was years ago to be a doctor, but being a doctor is still important for people,” Fanburg said.

Fanburg says one thing to consider as reimbursements are reduced or changed is that new doctors have significant debts from medical school that they’d need a way to repay if they are to consider medicine as a career.

New Jersey: Decoded cuts through the cruft and gets to what matters in New Jersey news and politics. Follow on Facebook and Twitter.

Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5 and the editor of New Jersey: Decoded. Follow @NJDecoded on Twitter and Facebook. Contact him at

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