PCPs more open to ACOs, global payments than specialists

Although Massachusetts may be leading the way in the country's revolution of how it pays for healthcare, the Commonwealth's physicians remain hesitant to voluntarily participate in accountable care organizations (ACO) and global payment systems.

This is the first in the 10 years of the Massachusetts Medical Society Annual Physician Workforce Survey that the society has asked doctors questions particular to payment reform. According to the responses from the roughly 1,070 practicing physicians who responded, more than half of physicians said they were familiar with global payment systems and ACOs, at 57 percent and 58 percent, respectively.

Of those who said they were familiar with such payment systems, 45 percent said they were not likely to participate in a voluntary global payment system, while 41 percent said they wouldn't participate in a voluntary ACO.

Compared to specialists, primary care physicians were more open to the idea of payment reform, with 61 percent of PCPs saying they're participate in a voluntary global payment system and 72 percent saying they'd take part in a voluntary ACO.

According to some Massachusetts physicians interviewed separately for the medical society's newsletter, Vital Signs, physicians may be waiting to buy in to payment reform until they are provided more specifics about how programs would work.

"Despite a structure and plan for ACOs having come out at the national level, the ability for any physician group to really wrap their minds around what it means for them and the way they practice medicine makes it difficult to commit to the concept of the ACO," Dr. Denise Mills, a solo family physician and immediate past president of the Middlesex North District Medical Society, told Vital Signs.

In addition, the workforce survey revealed persistent physician shortages in Massachusetts, with eight of 18 specialties found to be in severe to critical shortages. Although that's two fewer specialties in shortage than last year, internal and family medicine reported shortages for the sixth consecutive year.

To learn more:
- read the press release from MMS
- check out the article from Healthcare Finance News
- see the post from WBUR's CommonHealth blog
- read the article from Vital Signs
- check out the study