Eighty-eight percent of physicians nationally indicate that some, many or all of their patients are affected by a social condition such as poverty, unemployment, lack of education, or drug addiction that poses a serious impediment to their health, according to a new survey. Among Idaho physicians completing the survey, the number also is even higher at 95%.

These are among key findings of a major new survey of 8,772 physicians commissioned by The Physicians Foundation, a nonprofit organization that seeks to advance the work of practicing physicians and help facilitate the delivery of healthcare to patients. The survey was conducted for The Physicians Foundation by Merritt Hawkins, the nation’s leading physician search and consulting firm.

Titled 2018 Survey of America’s Physicians: Practice Patterns and Perspectives, the research underscores the prevalence of social conditions undermining the health and well-being of many Americans.

The survey’s findings align with recent reports tying social determinants of health to declining life expectancy rates in the U.S. and to research showing the connection between poverty and relatively high rates of healthcare spending in the U.S. compared to other developed nations.

Cracks in the Physician/Hospital Relationship.

The wide ranging survey also asked physicians about their morale, practice metrics, practice plans and how they feel about the physician/hospital relationship. Over 57% of physicians nationally said they do not believe that the employment of physicians by hospitals is likely to enhance quality of care or decrease costs. For Idaho physicians, the number was lower at 39%.

Over 46% of physicians nationally described the physician/hospital relationship as somewhat or mostly negative, compared to only 32% who described the relationship as somewhat or mostly positive. For Idaho physicians, the number was lower with 39% describing the physician/hospital relationship as somewhat or mostly negative. Though this is lower than the national average, this finding still underscores the fact that physician/hospital alignment cannot always be achieved merely by employing physicians. More communication and cooperation may be necessary before this key relationship can be considered truly symbiotic (for more information on this topic see the Merritt Hawkins’ white paper Ten Keys to Enhancing Physician/Hospital Relations and Reducing Physician Burnout and Turnover).

At Capacity or Overextended

When asked to describe their practices, over 79% of physicians nationally said they are either at capacity or are overextended and therefore unable to see more patients or take on more duties. For Idaho physicians, the number was 84%. Close to 62% of physicians nationally described their professional morale as somewhat or mostly negative. For Idaho physicians, the number was 59%, lower than the national average but still a cause for concern for Idaho hospitals employing doctors.

The survey includes many other data points derived from dozens of questions that reveal the average number of hours physicians work, the average number of patients they see, what changes they plan to make in theirs practices and a variety of other topics. Results of the survey broken out by all physicians and by Idaho physicians are available to Idaho Hospital Association members by contacting Miguel Castroman, Merritt Hawkins’ marketing consultant, at EM.castroman@merritthawkins.

Kurt Mosley, Vice President of Strategic Alliance

Kurt Mosley is Vice President of Strategic Alliances for Merritt Hawkins, the nation’s leading physician search firm and an Endorsed Partner of Healthcare Business Ventures, a subsidiary of the Idaho Hospital Association. He can be reached at