U.S. doctors: Time wasted with insurance

Nov. 29, 2012 at 1:06 PM
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NEW YORK, Nov. 29 (UPI) -- U.S. doctors say they spend too much time on insurance company problems and tracking down patient information, a survey indicates.

The Commonwealth Fund International Health Policy Survey of nearly 8,500 primary care physicians in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States found communication and teamwork across the health system was a challenge in all countries.

In each, only a minority of primary care doctors reported always receiving timely information from specialist physicians after referring patients to them; just 11 percent of U.S. physicians said they had such information available when it was needed. A third to more than half of doctors across the countries surveyed said they were not always notified when their patients left the hospital.

However, the survey also found more than half of U.S. doctors said health insurance restrictions on their care decisions are a major time concern and they were also the most negative about their country's health system, with only 15 percent agreeing the healthcare system works well.

In addition, 59 percent of U.S. primary care physicians reported their patients often cannot afford medical care. In comparison, only 4 percent of primary care physicians in Norway said their patients could not afford medical care, 13 percent in Britain, 16 percent in Switzerland, 21 percent in Germany and 25 percent in Australia.

"The United States spends far more on medical care than the other countries we surveyed, yet our doctors are telling us their patients can't afford care, they don't always have the patient information they need, they spend too much time dealing with insurance companies, and we need major change," Cathy Schoen, senior vice president of the Commonwealth Fund, said in a statement.

Harris Interactive Inc. and country contractors conducted the surveys by mail and phone from March through July. The final samples included: 500 primary care doctors in Australia, 2,124 in Canada, 501 in France, 909 in Germany, 522 in the Netherlands, 500 in New Zealand, 869 in Norway, 1,025 in Switzerland, 500 in Britain and 1,012 in the United States. Sample sizes of 1,000 and 500 had a margin of sample error of 2 percentage points to 4 percentage points.

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