Most Doctors Not Experiencing Uptick in New Patients, Study Finds
Providers in all specialties except pediatrics experienced lower rates of visits from new patients in the first five months of 2014 compared with the same period in 2013, despite the expansion of health coverage under the Affordable Care Act, according to a new report, Modern Healthcare reports (Landen, Modern Healthcare, 7/17).
For the report, from Athenahealth and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, researchers analyzed data from about 14,300 physicians who were clients of Athenahealth. The data covered 5.8 million patients over 12.2 million visits across several different specialties. Athenahealth is a provider of cloud-based health records and other services (Fox, NBC News, 7/15).
The percentage of pediatrics patients who were new increased from 16% in January through May 2013 to 16.6% in the same time period in 2014. However, the proportion of new patient visits declined for primary care, ob-gyn, surgery and other specialties (Athenahealth/RWJF report, 7/14). For example, the percentage of visits from new patients seeking primary care in the first five months of the year declined from 19.3% in 2013 to 18.8% in 2014 (Modern Healthcare, 7/17).
In addition, researchers found that new patients seemed to be healthier than established patients. RWJF's Katherine Hempstead noted that some of the new patients might not have been newly insured, but rather changed providers for other reasons.
Researchers said that the results did not vary significantly by state (NBC News, 7/15).
While the report did not examine the reasons for the decline, the authors suggested that newly insured U.S. residents might still be going to emergency departments instead of physician offices (Modern Healthcare, 7/17). They also suggested that the newly insured might take more time to find physicians, schedule appointments and see providers, and that bad weather in some parts of the country in January and February of 2014 could have affected visit rates (Athenahealth/RWJF report, 7/14).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.