An annual look at a day in the life of a New Jersey physician finds they're getting bogged down in tasks that have nothing to do with one of the main reasons they got into the line of work — seeing and helping patients.

In the eighth annual survey from full-service law firm Brach Eichler in Roseland, 63% of physicians said they're dealing with an increased administrative burden due to regulatory or compliance issues. Just 39% said the same thing in 2015. Nearly 50% of physicians indicated they're spending less time with their patients, compared to just 9% four years ago.

"I've represented physicians for 35 years and the one thing I can say is that, more than anything else, they want to treat their patients and provide good care," said Joseph Gorrell, an attorney with Brach Eichler's health law department. "Over the years things have actually become more difficult for them."

In the 2019 New Jersey Health Care Monitor, which surveyed 149 physicians, many indicated that data privacy continues to be a focus, and they're investing in technology, conducting more staff training, creating new procedures, or a combination of the three, to prevent breaches and cyberattacks.

Just under 40% of surveyed physicians said they have an "unfavorable" or "very unfavorable" outlook for their practice. More than half said the changing healthcare environment has led to reduced reimbursement for their offices, compared to 27% in 2015.

"Because of reduced reimbursement, they feel that they have to see more patient just to keep up," Gorrell said. "If you're a small practice, you have very little leverage — no leverage, really — in negotiating what you're going to get paid, which is really a driving factor in the consolidations of physician practices."

Looking ahead to 2020, the law firm said physicians will continue to move away from smaller practices and towards larger groups or hospital affiliations. New York and Philadelphia-based hospitals will continue to penetrate the New Jersey market, the report added. Following other large hospitals like Memorial Sloan Kettering, health systems like Penn Medicine and the Rothman Institute have already made their way into the New Jersey healthcare marketplace.

The report also predicted patient care in 2020 will increasingly be handled by physician assistants and advanced practice nurses.

In spite of challenges, the report said, more than half of the physicians surveyed said they would still recommend that a young period go into the medical profession.

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