Over 2017, many legislative efforts were put forth by lawmakers to heal the ailing US healthcare system. And many more have been announced and/or are in the works already in 2018. Along with Physician’s Weekly, I co-hosted a TweetChat to shed some light on the biggest predictions and expectations in healthcare for 2018 (check out the recap). While many debate what is broken and what needs to be fixed, Physician’s Weekly and SERMO jointly polled doctors on their view of the healthcare system in 2018 from the frontlines, in order to expand upon the seemingly less-than-optimistic views observed during the TweetChat. And the results were quite dismal, with only 1% of doctors believing there is no need for improvement in our current system.

Over 1,000 physicians answered this 10-question poll, although not all answered every question. Duplicate respondents and those who answered from outside the US were eliminated. All respondents were verified MDs or DOs currently practicing in the US. The results were found to be statistically significant at the 95% confidence level with +/-3% range of error.

While the results are hardly surprising to many, they do quantify and make significant what many expected. Over the past several years, doctors have been voicing their concerns about the growing dysfunction in the US healthcare system. In fact, 78% of doctors answered that they are fearful of our current system, and only 22% felt hopeful.

Not only do doctors feel afraid of where our system is headed, but we believe our patients are equally frightened. Patients also have been progressively expressing more concern over the current state of our healthcare system. While many advocate for reform, doctors and patients alike are wary of another futile fix. When asked, 63% of doctors believed that patients are concerned/fearful of healthcare reform, while 20% answered that they are not. Another 17% were unsure, and perhaps it is time that someone step up and ask patients as well.

Recent legislative efforts have concentrated on getting more patients covered by health insurance. However, many would argue that having healthcare coverage does not actually equate to receiving healthcare, given the extraordinarily high deductibles many plans carry and the fact that insurers are increasingly denying coverage for certain tests, medications, and even hospitalizations. Approximately 75% of doctors have no confidence that the healthcare system will support and improve patient care, as well as access to it, in 2018. Only 10% of doctors expressed confidence that this will happen this year.

While our political leaders create new healthcare initiatives, many feel that the current mandates already in place actually compromise patient care and healthcare access. In fact, 73% of physicians felt there was no hope for this improving in 2018.

Healthcare legislation has been hotly debated by all political parties and seems to follow party lines. While most people would dispute that healthcare is a political issue, our politicians clearly have taken an active role in trying to “reform” or legislate the healthcare system. But are they really the ones who should be handling this crisis? According to doctors, 73% have no faith that any political party will support true patient access to appropriate healthcare.

It is interesting to note that when asked what would improve healthcare in 2018 from a list of choices, the most popular answer chosen by physicians was “reevaluating bureaucratic interventions,” followed by “greater pharmacy and insurance company transparency,” and then “fewer mandates.” It is evident that governmental bureaucracy and mandates are responsible for damaging our current system, at least in part.

Physicians are in a unique position to diagnose the health of the system because we are on the front-lines battling it every day. We see the dysfunction prescription by prescription, denial by denial. For us, this defectiveness has a very real face: that of our patients trying to get healthy or be cured from a disease. Legislators look at the policies and economic factors. Doctors see the very real American citizens left floundering in a system that not only does not help them, but often harms them. If you want to know what is really going on in the healthcare system, ask the ones who are doing the actual work and not those sitting behind their legislative desks without ever meeting a real patient. We did ask, and the results speak for themselves. The American healthcare system is ailing. The question now is who and what is going to be done to fix it?

Find complete survey results here, and look for more to come from the survey, here on physiciansweekly.com, through my (@DrLindaMD) and PW’s Twitter (@physicianswkly) and Facebook (Physician’s Weekly) accounts, in the PW print posters, and elsewhere. This blog post is just the tip of the iceberg.