Is it safe to trade-in an old device?

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Did you know that more data has been created during the past two years than in the entire previous history of humanity?

The world population is currently about 7.7 billion people and experts believe that by the year 2020, about 1.7 megabytes of new information will be created every second for each human being on the planet.

We are also seeing a huge growth in video and photographic data. Every minute up to 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube alone.

Nearly 80% of pictures are now taken on smart phones. We take over 1 trillion photos annually and share billions of them online.

In 2018 alone, roughly 400 million computing devices were shipped globally.

Because of the rapid evolution of technology, many used devices are being exchanged or recycled on the secondary market; often stimulated by financial incentives to “trade-up” to a faster or smarter device or by electronics recyclers offering to take old computers and other hardware from businesses at no charge.

Some people bring their devices to “free”

neighborhood electronics recycling events.

But, have you thought carefully about what happens to the residual data left on your old computer, tablet or cell phone? Are you confident that the people taking your old

 

hardware will securely destroy your personal information before reselling your device?

A recent study revealed that 7 out of 10 used devices contained Personally Identifiable Information (PII), including: online banking credentials, private pictures, voter and other government ID cards, social security numbers, biometrics, etc.

Did you know that re-initializing a device to factory settings does not overwrite stored data?

Removing residual data from hard drives, memory cards and cell phones is a time- consuming, costly, manual procedure. Most electronics intermediaries are not trained, equipped or motivated to do it correctly.

Are you willing to take the risk of suffering a residual data breach?

Shredding is a more permanent solution. A trustworthy shredding company can:

  • Offer On-Site hard drive shredding service, reducing your risk by shredding your hard drives right in front of you.
  • Provide a Certificate of Destruction with the serial number of each hard drive, tablet or cell phone that was shred, should you need to demonstrate your thoroughness in the future.
  • Demonstrate their operating and hiring practices are externally audited and certified by NAID (National Association of Information Destruction) and ISO (International Standards Organization)
  • Document the recycling of the shredded remnant of your devices through R2 certified vendors that achieve high standards in the industrial re-use of recycled material.

For more information, contact Greg Gálvez at greg.galvez@proshred.com or 678-580-1155

Scamming Techniques: 5 Examples and How to Avoid Them

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E-mail Popup Warning Window Concept

It comes as no surprise that not everyone out there is acting in the best interest of your business. If you’re the owner of any type of business, no matter how big or small, odds are someone has attempted to scam you and your company.

It’s not a great feeling either, and unfortunately, scammers are getting more and more creative and their techniques are becoming more and more sophisticated.

Luckily, people are becoming more aware of scammers, and defensive technologies against them are becoming better too.

To help make sure that you’re a step ahead of would-be scammers, here are a few of the most popular scamming techniques and how to identify them.

Hacking

Hacking is what happens when a scammer attempts to gain access to personal information your company possesses. To do this, they’ll use some sort of technology to break into your network.

This is the area where most scammers are progressing at a fast rate in terms of skill. That makes it all the more important to ensure that you have the proper cybersecurity strategies and practices in place that can alert you of a data breach.

Some tell-tale signs that someone is attempting to hack into your systems are: 

  • Files have been removed
  • Pop-ups on your computer screen
  • An unexpectedly large phone or internet bill
  • Unable to log on to certain accounts

 

Phishing

Phishing has been around for a while and takes the form of emails, where the sender is trying to get sensitive information from the recipient. They pose as a legitimate company, and they may try such tricks as saying that your account has been hacked and that you need to reply with password and username to gain control again.

This can be detrimental to the individual who is preyed upon, as well as the company they work for. If a scammer can successfully trick an employee, then they are well on their way to gaining more information on the company they work for.

The following are signs that someone may be phishing you: 

  • The emails are nosy and have suspicious requests
  • Grammatical errors in the email
  • Wrong or missing recipient on the email

Malware and Ransomware

If you’ve ever gotten a sketchy pop-up that tells you to download something…then you may have had an encounter with malware. Malware scams attempt to trick you into installing software that scammers can then use to access your files.

On the flip side, ransomware is a type of malware that may block you from accessing certain files or even your computer altogether. As the name implies, if you want to get that access back from the scammer, you’ll have to pay them a certain amount of money.

Look for these signs to avoid malware and ransomware: 

  • An excessive amount of pop-ups and your computer is a lot slower after encountering them
  • There are new icons on your desktop
  • Your computer randomly starts to download software without your direction

 

Investment Scams

Investment scams are different than the previous techniques listed. Instead of using technology to try and trick you or access your files, investment scams may occur when speaking with the actual scammer.

Most commonly, this will come in the form of a cold call from someone offering unsolicited advice or investments. When you receive these phone calls or emails, just hang up or don’t respond.

Ways to tell if an “investment opportunity” is indeed a scam: 

  • You receive repeated calls or emails from someone offering an investment opportunity
  • You are invited to attend a free seminar, but follow-up seminars are high in terms of cost
  • The email or phone call incorporates risk-free investments or a similar promise

 

False Billings

False billings are used to try and get you to pay for a service that you never actually signed up for. Scammers who use this tactic rely on the fact that someone who is in charge of admin duties, such as a receptionist, may not be completely up-to-date on what the company has been doing in terms of advertising or promotional initiatives.

They may call or send a letter trying to get you to pay for a fake business directory or to renew your domain name.

Signs to look for when it comes to false billing scams: 

  • You receive an invoice from a directory or publication you’ve never heard of, and they ask you to confirm an entry or advertisement
  • The caller cites the government as a reason your company needs to be listed on their register
  • You receive an unexpectedly high invoice for domain registration or is registered with a different company

 

Need Help Staying Scam Free? Call Medicus IT

At Medicus IT, we work with clients to run phishing scam simulations to determine vulnerabilities within your organization and see where your employees need additional scam-avoidance training.

For those in the medical field, we also specialize in HIPAA and will work with or provide third-party compliance consultants to conduct risk assessments for your practice. It is only through regular assessments and testing that you can ensure that you are minimizing your exposure to attack so that your electronic patient health information (ePHI) is safe and secure.

Contact us today to ensure that your business is protected from scammers.

By: Medicus IT
www.MedicusIT.com
678-495-5900

 

Sheila Fox-Lovell Spotlight

Categories: Team Member Spotlight

Family – married? Children? Pets? Married to Mitch for 24 years. Three step children – all grown, and one lives/works with us. Three cats – one is 18! Best cat on the planet

Where did you grow up? Interests as a child? What did you want to be “when you grew up”? Long Island, South Shore, near Jones Beach. Graduating high school, boys. Originally wanted to be an anthropologist (it sounded cool, then wanted to be probation officer (hence my degree in law enforcement).

What college did you attend? What did you study? Best memories of those years? Bryant College – now known as Bryant University in Smithfield, RI. All four years were a party (hey, it was the 70’s) but the highlight was the year a blizzard hit because school shut down for a week. Yet another excuse for a party!

Where in Atlanta do you live? What brought you here? East Cobb. When criminal justice was no longer attractive, I went to work for my dad who owned an envelope manufacturing plant in NY. When he sold the business, there was a location in Austell that the purchasing company owned, so it was a natural move.

Hobbies? Any charity or philanthropy? Scrapbooking, crochet – all things that help de-stress. Was once an avid tennis player (actually how Mitch and I met).

If money were no issue, what would you do with your time? Travel. For sure. As often as possible.

Favorite food? Worst food? Italian – I’m an aficionado of eggplant parmesan. Anything pesto works for me too. Sushi – never had it, never will.

Cook or clean dishes? Cook.

Favorite sports team(s)? Favorite book? Favorite movie? Braves/Falcons. Movie: Life is Beautiful. Book: The Kite Runner or 1000 Splendid Suns.

Furthest you’ve ever traveled? Best trip of life? Australia with my sister. Also, my honeymoon in Hawaii. Close second is Lake Louise in Banff, Alberta Canada

Speak any other languages? No. Unless “cat” counts.

Mountains, beach, or staycation? Yes. 50/50 mountain/beach.

Role model in your life? My dad, as a business owner.

What is one tidbit of information about you we wouldn’t expect? I’m first generation American. Both my parents came through Ellis Island. Dad came over from London after WWII. Mom came over as an infant from Poland and was quarantined for several months due to small pox.

Picture to share? Mitch and I visiting the “fatherland”.

Spotlight: Bart Segal

Categories: Team Member Spotlight

Family – married? Children? Pets? Wife Kara. Jeremy (22), Ilana (19), Tori (14). Dog Tov.

Where did you grow up? Interests as a child? What did you want to be “when you grew up”? Suburban Philly. Always loved science – anything science related. Swimming. Boating. Mineral collecting. What did I want to be – Engineer.

What college did you attend? What did you study? Best memories of those years? Drexel University in Philladelphia. Studied computer engineering. Was nerdy in high school – came out of my shell in college, so socialization was the best of memories .

Where in Atlanta do you live? What brought you here? Marietta, East Cobb. I owned a software company in Philly that was sold to a company in Atlanta circa 1997. I still in the same house.

Hobbies? Any charity or philanthropy? Mineral collecting, swimming, juggling, travel. Support a number of charities – ALS society mainly.

If money were no issue, what would you do with your time? Travel – everywhere.

Favorite food? Worst food? Favorite – everything (lobster? Sushi? A good steak!). Worst – raw tomatoes.

Cook or clean dishes? Clean because I don’t want to starve.

Favorite sports team(s)? Favorite book? Favorite movie? Eagles! Philly anything really. Shawshank Redemption.

Non-fiction books. Harry Potter.

Furthest you’ve ever traveled? Best trip of life? Israel. Most unique was Iceland.

Speak any other languages? No Mountains, beach, or staycation? Beach

Role model in your life? Einstein or Stephen Hawking because he overcame so much.

What is one tidbit of information about you we wouldn’t expect? Grew up very shy and nerdy.

When practices come to us for help transitioning off their software many ask “What are the best practices for switching EHRs?”

Categories: Articles

If you’re thinking about changing your software you’re not alone. According to the Medical Economics 2017 EHR Report Card, 62 percent of physician respondents indicated that they had already switched EHR systems at some point. High level physicians and admins almost always begin the transition process by asking “What are the best practices for switching EHRs?”

The marketplace has partially answered where to start with an EHR switch, practices are demanding more user-friendly EHRs that offer better interoperability. In other instances, practices are searching for specific functionality to help them thrive. Often, the need to switch EHRs is driven by frustration that your current software impedes rather than speeds your workflow.

Undertaking an EHR switch can feel daunting—after all, it’s a big investment. You may be wondering:

  • How do I identify the need for an EHR switch?
  • What steps should I take to find the right vendor for my practice?
  • How can I best prepare my practice to make this change?

To help you on your journey, the following are our best practices for switching to a new EHR.

Focus on your functional requirements

Consider your daily workflow. What types of capabilities does your practice need from an EHR? Of course, physicians want mobile capabilities, e-prescribing and integration with billing systems but it’s also important to look at the functional needs of your specific practice. List each functionality you want and create a scorecard to rate how well each vendor’s solution can meet your needs. Be sure to ask for input from people in a variety of roles at your practice.

Keep emerging needs in mind

Identify EHR software that helps you use data analytics to benefit both your patients and your practice. From population health management to merit-based incentive payment system (MIPS) reporting that helps practices receive reimbursement for value-based care, your EHR’s capabilities should offer both the tools and the interfaces that allow you to leverage the power of data. Your practice will also want an EHR with strong internal reporting functionality that allows you to create custom queries and leverage your data in the real world.

Be sure you’re in a position to Promote Interoperability

When evaluating new EHR software, ask how the candidate system operates with regard to interfaces with labs and hospitals in your area, how well it handles referral management, and does it support the newer initiatives evolving for on demand data requests such as Commonwell, Carequality, and Surescripts National Record Locator and Exchange. This is important with regard to the CMS Promoting Interoperability, a component of MIPS, compliance guidelines. You can read more about how we help our practices with MACRA/MIPS here.

Seek a vendor with a proven track record of success

Identify potential EHR vendors by reviewing published ranking lists and awards from third parties such as KLAS Research. Insight from your peers is also valuable and can be attained by attending industry conferences, or talking to other physicians in your specialty.

Verify ease-of-use

An EHR that checks all the boxes on paper may not necessarily perform to your expectations in practice. When you demo the system, make sure it fits into YOUR workflow versus changing how you practice to accommodate the software. A great EHR is designed with the user in mind, helping you work the way you want to and reducing the time you spend on routine tasks.

Enlist a variety of power users to give the EHR a test drive

A system that works well for a physician may have shortcomings that only the administrative or billing staff can detect. Conversely, the same EHR that your office manager loves, may also be the EHR the physician loathes. After you’ve developed a shortlist of EHR products to test, gather people from different areas of your practice to test the EHR for issues. Be sure everyone is on board with the same EHR before making your final decision. Keep in mind that not everyone may get exactly what they want, a little give and take may be necessary in choosing the best solution overall for the organization.

Confirm the availability of responsive customer support

When you have questions concerning your EHR, you want answers as quickly as possible. Ask EHR vendors whether they have a U.S.-based support team available during regular office hours and, again, look at published lists and rankings that detail the vendor’s approach to support.

Don’t skimp on training

Proper training is essential for every EHR user. Not only can it help reduce the frustration of adapting to a new system, it can help users become proficient more quickly—lessening the impact on your practice and patients. The vendor you choose should offer robust training options to help you experience a smooth implementation. Although everyone who uses the system must attend training, it is also valuable to select a person or persons depending on the size of your practice to be a “super-user” who will cross train on clinical, billing, and admin capabilities.

Invest in long-term gain

Although switching your practice’s EHR system is a major undertaking, the gains achieved by increased interoperability, more easily sharing patient data and reducing administrative workload can reap long-term benefits. Find the EHR that’s the right fit for your practice and focus on the future. Also be sure to consider the experience of the potential vendors in assisting practices in making a change. The path to successful change can be bumpy, but experience and proven processes can avoid many of the potholes along the way.

Your next step is to add Aprima to your shortlist. Our track record of industry praise, long-term client retention (98% of practices have remained customers after 10 years!), and expertise in helping practices switch EHRs make Aprima an EHR you should know!

 

Tri-Med Solutions, Inc.

Bart Segal

770-579-0719
bsegal@trimedsolutions.net

 

20 Things We Should Never Say to a Graphic Designer – But We’re Often Asked to by Customers

Categories: Articles

#2 of a 4 part series… part 1

Graphic designers can be hard to communicate with. That’s the reason we communicate with them on our customer’s behalf.

Having worked with designers for about 25 years, it helps that we know the right kind of questions that will move the project along and create a final product that everyone will be happy with. They expend time and energy to come up with ideas, concepts and designs to achieve their goals. Sometimes, our customers will ask us to ask our designers questions that bring the project to a crashing halt, with incorrect assumptions about the design process.

  1. Don’t say: “Can I make just one more change? I promise it’s the last one.”

We are fairly certain that there will probably be other changes after this one. After all, you’ve asked for multiple tweaks already. So let’s just be upfront about it and nicely, apologetically say something like: “I’m so sorry to keep taking up your time like this, but I found another change I’d like to make. Can you change this [word / font / graphic / color]? Feel free to add the extra time for these edits to your invoice.” Graphic designers are short on time just like you are, and although they do want to help you make sure the design fits your needs, they also appreciate the acknowledgement that their time is valuable. So next time, try compiling a list of all the changes you’d like to make and hand them over all at once, which is more efficient for everyone.

  1. Don’t say: Can you do something that looks exactly like [this other designer’s work]?”                                                                                                                    ­­­

Aside from copyright issues (and possible legal consequences), this should be a matter of ethics. No designer should be okay with copying another artist’s work outright, and you shouldn’t expect them to. Instead, try pointing out what you like about the design specifically, and ask your designer to do their own take on the style or try certain elements inspired by the work, like a color scheme, basic layout, or general aesthetic (clean, vintage, bold, etc.)

  1. Don’t say: “Can you use this image I found online?”

Turning to Google for images can backfire in a number of ways. For one, like the previous point, you could run into legal trouble for using a copyrighted image — one that’s not licensed for personal or commercial use. Additionally, it’s likely that the image won’t even look good in your design, or print cleanly, because the resolution is too low. If you’re looking for an alternative to paying for stock photos, there is an increasing number of sources where you can find quality, free stock photos.

  1. Don’t say: “Can you have this done by tomorrow?

Graphic design isn’t an instant process that is done with a few clicks of a mouse. Every project will have its own process and time requirements. Realistically, some designs can be whipped out in a day, while others will take much, much longer. It completely depends on the project (and the designer’s creative process). We usually let him or her know about any time constraints and ask for a realistic estimate on how long the design will take.

 

  1. Don’t say: “I know someone who works for half that. Could you lower your rate to match?”

Why? Designers set their prices based on multiple components: geography, cost of living, style, skill, experience, and many more. Every designer will have a different combination of strengths and abilities to offer, and there’s no special formula for determining if a designer’s rate is competitive or “fair.” Generally, though, we get what we pay for — so we encourage our clients and prospects to decide what characteristics are most valuable to in the design process (speed? quality? originality? cost? personality?). That’s not to say price negotiation is not an option, but if our first encounter with one of our designers on a particular project is an effort to “lowball” their rate —while expecting the same quality of work — that will be an immediate turnoff, and is disrespectful to the designer, and to us. As with most things…there is always someone who can do it cheaper.

 

Submitted by Sheila Fox-Lovell from Shandy Creative Solutions

sheila@shandycreative.com

770.951.0305

Retirement Through The Decades

Categories: Articles

‘Retirement’ is defined, according to the Merriam Webster dictionary, as the withdrawal from one’s position or occupation or from active working life. Depending upon your age bracket, the word retirement conjures up different meanings and different emotions. And the age in which one will retire differs just as much as the images of what one will do once they are no longer in the workforce. Retirement viewed through the decades:

During your 30s:

Individuals in their 30s have watched their parents save and because they are now years into their own careers are doing a reasonable job of saving. According to the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, seventy-six percent are saving for retirement and thirty percent who participate in their 401(k) or similar type plan are contributing more than 10 percent of their annual pay.

During your 40s:

This age bracket of individuals begins to feel the pressure of the looming word ‘retirement.’ Fortysomething individuals are often referred to as the ‘sandwich generation’ – they may be responsible for the care of aging parents while working and juggling their own families and kids. This busy lifestyle leaves many feeling like their life is a constant hamster wheel. Only 10 percent are very confident that they will be able to retire with a comfortable lifestyle. Twenty-two percent state that paying off credit card debt is their greatest financial priority. Although this age cohort is often frazzled with what life is throwing at them, they are usually a focused group as eighty-two percent of those who are offered a 401(k) plan are participating.

During your 50s:

During your 50s many are well into their careers and beginning to realize they may live a lot longer. It is important at this stage of life to contribute as much as you can to your 401(k) and if possible, capitalize on the catch-up provisions which allow additional contributions to your employer-sponsored plans if you are over age 50. Now is the time to also pay down any debt you may have incurred over the years. Ideally, you want to enter your 60s debt free. For many families, by the time you reach your mid 50s, kids are leaving the house which may provide more disposable income. Close to 60 percent reported they plan to work past age 65 years old. This is most likely due to the fact that only 45 percent believe they are building a large enough retirement nest egg.

During your 60s:

People are living well into their 80s and 90s. This generation of adults are forced to think about the looming question – “What will retirement look like financially, socially, emotionally and physically?” Forty-seven percent of sixty-somethings expect Social Security to be their primary source of income when they retire. And a little over half of this age cohort (52 percent) plan to continue working after they retire with their top two reasons being income and health benefits.

Building a retirement income strategy is one of the most productive actions you can take to feel more confident with your financial future. The mindset you have and the strategies you engage regarding your current finances change as you move through each decade of your life. During your 30s, retirement may seem far off, however, it is the perfect time to begin making minor adjustments to your savings which can have a potentially major impact on your confidence level during your later decades.

*Statistics cited in the blog are based upon a Retirement Throughout the Ages: Expectations and Preparations of American Workers May 2015 survey from the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies®.

Joel Johnson Contributor

I am a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional and the managing partner at Johnson Brunetti, a Retirement and Investment firm that specializes in working with retirees…

Article submitted by Joshua C. Harper, CFP®, ChFC®, CLU®, RICP®

Millenial Nurses: A Dynamic Influence on the Profession

Categories: Articles

Like generations before them, Millennials (ages 19-36) are making their own unique and indelible mark on our society. Coming of age with the internet, social media, mobile communication, and changing societal dynamics, Millennials seem to hold very different expectations from previous generations – and they assume that their contributions will be different, too. These characteristics may be magnified in the nursing workforce, because this helping and caring profession always demands an extraordinary level of individual commitment. Millennial nurses are bringing a dynamic new perspective on such factors as career, leadership, education, and work environment.

These viewpoints are reflected in the data from the AMN Healthcare 2017 Survey of Registered Nurses. This report, Survey of Millennial Nurses: A Dynamic Influence on the Profession, extracts and examines responses from Millennial nurses contained in the 2017 RN Survey and compares them with responses from Generation X or Gen X (ages 37-53) and Baby Boomer nurses (ages 54-71). The results paint a portrait of a generation that rewrites the rules on nurse work environment expectations.

Millennials are often looking to better themselves through education or job changes, and they are more trusting of leadership than are older nurses. They also have distinct expectations about what constitutes a good working environment and how that can positively affect patient care. Among these expectations are professional development opportunities, transparent quality measures, a positive culture, and earnestly supportive leadership.

As the healthcare industry continues to face unprecedented shortages of qualified nurses, the insights from this report could prove valuable to healthcare leaders. By better understanding the viewpoints and desires of Millennial nurses regarding their profession, healthcare organizations can be better prepared to attract and retain nurses from the generational segment that is taking over the nursing workforce.

KEY FINDINGS

CAREER PLANS

  • Will look for new nurse job: 17% Millennials, 15% Gen Xers, 10% Baby Boomers
  • Become Advanced Practice RN: 49% Millennials, 35% Gen Xers, 12% Baby Boomers
  • Work as travel nurse: 10% Millennials, 6% Gen Xers, 5% Baby Boomers
  • Seek leadership role: 36% Millennials, 27% Gen Xers, 10% Baby Boomers
  • Pursue higher degree: 71% Millennials, 56% Gen Xers, 20% Baby Boomers

The Avery Difference

At Avery Partners, we are different in that we take all the risk. We meet each of our candidates face to face for the interview to make sure they are the best fit for the job. These candidates are also OUR employees. We manage all their paperwork, applications, check references, federal verification and tax forms, background checks, drug screenings, pay-records, taxes, etc. This takes the hassle off your company and staff so that you can do what you do best.

Please contact Jennifer Hall for more information at the office (770) 642-6100 x237 or email Jennifer.Hall@AveryPartners.com

Where is the Growth of Mobile Payments?

Categories: Articles

With all the talk around smartphones, smart watches, and increasing technology choices, will the traditional plastic card be a thing of the past?  Not so fast.  While the chatter is all about millennials and their love of the next tech toy, their use of credit cards is still lower than other age groups.

The financial crisis starting late 2007 led to stricter requirements from banks and lending institutions and also touched the credit card industry.  Credit card offers were focused on those with the best credit. Restrictions were placed on how credit card offers could market on college campuses. Credit card applications required proof of income or cosigner. All this led to less access of younger Americans to credit cards.

Jump ahead to 2019 and the industry finds the millennials to be choosier when picking a credit card.  They research their options and consider not only interest rates and annual fees but put a higher focus on rewards, perks, and unique experiences. Millennials are likely to have fewer cards than other generations.

Availability and Experience

Proximity mobile payments—tap and pay—haven’t quite taken off the way that payment platforms hoped they would. One significant factor is that not all retailers have adopted the technology.  Generally, coffee shops and fast food establishments have matched their payment options with the latest technology to just tap and pay.  Other retailers have not been as quick to change.  Thus, going out without your physical credit card limits where you can shop.

Another factor is the number of players in the game. Consumers have a variety of payment options to choose from like Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay, as well as retailer specific payment options such as Walmart and Starbucks. Without a compelling reason to use one versus another, the consumer tends to use what comes on their phone. The variety has led to an inconsistent checkout experience.

More to Come

The growth may be slow, but the technology is not going away.  Both Visa and MasterCard continue to roll out contactless chip cards.  Smartphones continue to get more and more sophisticated. As retailers replace older equipment, the marketplace will steadily have more opportunities to continue the growth of the mobile payments acceptance.

 

Jennifer Autian is the founder of TCA Business Solutions and an independent representative of merchant services.  To learn more about contactless payments or explore other payment processing options, connect with her at 678-523-8760 or by email at Jennifer@tcabiz.com.

Surveys: Physician Salaries Are Increasing, Burnout Persists

Categories: Articles

By:  Shawn Martin, AAFP Senior Vice President of Advocacy, Practice Advancement and Policy.

Spring has arrived, and with it comes longer days and, of course, baseball! Your 2019 world champion Washington Nationals(www.mlb.com) are off to a rough start, but there is a lot of baseball left to play. I remain optimistic that I will get an opportunity to watch World Series games in Washington, D.C., come October. (I can dream, I can dream.)

Last week, Medscape published its 2019 Physician Compensation Report.(www.staging.medscape.com) This annual report provides a snapshot of various aspects of the practice of medicine that are common to all specialties, according to physicians themselves.

The practice of medicine, across all specialties, remains predominantly aligned with the insurance industry. In fact, 81% of physicians reported a relationship with at least one insurance company. We know from AAFP member surveys that more than 60% of family physicians have contracts with seven or more insurance companies.

Only 6% of physicians from all specialties reported being in a cash-only practice, with no relationships with commercial insurance companies. For family medicine, AAFP data show that about 3.5% of family physicians practice in a direct primary care practice model, but a small subset of this group also accepts insurance.

Seventy-one percent of physicians from all specialties reported they participate in Medicare and/or Medicaid and plan to continue doing so in the coming year. With respect to Medicare, 42% of primary care physicians surveyed are participating in the Merit-based Incentive Payment System, and 12% are participating in an alternative payment model.

There are some interesting findings in the report and certainly some findings that are encouraging, but there are also a few items that are startling and should prompt some alarm bells to go off — now.

Let’s lead with the encouraging findings:

  • Average salaries for primary care physicians have reached $237,000, according to the report. That’s a 21.5% increase since Medscape’s 2015 report.
  • Looking at all specialties, self-employed physicians earn, on average, more than employed physicians — $359,000 to $289,000. Self-employed physicians also are older; 64% of them are older than 50 compared with only 46% of employed physicians.
  • Fifty-three percent of family physicians reported feeling fairly compensated. This percentage was higher than I anticipated, but it reflects the intrinsic motivation of patient care common among many family physicians. (Hint: You are undercompensated, and we’re working to fix that.)
  • Seventy-four percent of family physicians indicated they would choose medicine as a career again, and 68% indicated that they would choose family medicine again.
  • When asked why they continue to practice medicine, 29% of physicians surveyed said they were motivated by their relationships with their patients, and 22% reported knowing that they were “making the world a better place.”

Shot

It is difficult to surprise me, but the statistics associated with administrative and regulatory compliance in the Medscape report were startling. According to the survey, 74% of physicians spend 10 or more hours per week on paperwork, and 36% report spending 20 or more hours per week.

This is crazy. Consider this: In 2012, 53% of physicians reported they spent one to four hours per week on paperwork. These two data points suggest at least a 150% increase in paperwork over a six-year period. It goes without saying that physician compensation hasn’t increased at a similar pace.

Not surprisingly, 26% of physicians reported that compliance with rules and regulations was the most challenging part of their job. Fifteen percent reported that their electronic health record was the most challenging part, and 13% said getting fair compensation was the biggest challenge.

No wonder physicians continue to report symptoms of burnout and professional moral injury at an alarming rate. According to the 2019 Medscape National Physician Burnout, Depression & Suicide Report,(www.medscape.com) 44% of all physicians reported that they are burned out. If we look exclusively at family medicine, 48% of physicians reported they are burned out.

Here are what physicians (all specialties) reported to Medscape as the factors driving their professional dissatisfaction:

  • 59% say too many bureaucratic tasks;
  • 34% say too many hours at work;
  • 32% say increasing computerization of practice;
  • 30% say a lack of respect from administrators, employers, colleagues or staff; and
  • 29% say insufficient compensation.

Chaser

According to the 2019 Medscape compensation report, the gender pay gap among primary care physicians (checks notes) … increased? The average salary for male primary care physicians was $258,000, but for female primary care physicians it was $207,000 — an astonishing 25% delta. Making this even worse is the fact that the delta was 18% in 2018 and 16% in 2016. The gender pay gap in primary care is increasing, not decreasing.

Adding salt to an open wound, the Medscape data point to the fact that 50% of female physicians across all specialties report they are burned out, compared with 39% of male physicians.

Hangover

I will admit that after reviewing the data, I anticipated that the average respondent would be older and in the latter stages of their career. You know, the “old man yells at cloud”(www.abc.net.au) bias. My bias was wrong: 61% of compensation survey respondents and 55% of burnout survey respondents were between the ages of 28 and 54.

In other words, these statistics reflect information provided by the current physician workforce and, more importantly, the physician workforce our country will rely on for the next 15 to 20 years. Again, alarm bells should be ringing.

The Remedy

My colleague, Clif Knight, M.D., AAFP senior vice president for education, summarizes the situation extremely well: “Burnout is the problem. The system is the cause. We are the answer.”

Let’s address the cause first. Clearly, increased and appropriate payment or compensation for service provided by family physicians remains a top priority for the AAFP. I have written extensively about the Academy’s work on payment issues — for instance, here and here.

The AAFP also has prioritized the reduction of administrative burden, and we are aggressively pursuing solutions to reduce the day-to-day burden for family physicians and the system drivers of burden. The AAFP’s Principles for Administrative Simplification document lays out four priority areas to focus efforts aimed at cutting administrative burden:

  • prior authorization,
  • quality measures and the need for measure harmonization,
  • certification and documentation, and
  • medical record documentation

Now, let’s address the problem — burnout. In 2017, the AAFP published a position paper titled “Family Physician Burnout, Well-Being, and Professional Satisfaction.” At the same time, the AAFP began investing heavily in developing resources and programs aimed at helping family physicians learn about burnout and create a plan to improve physician well-being for themselves or their colleagues. The anchor of our efforts is the Physician Health First portal. This collection of resources is a good starting point for all family physicians. If you are interested in a more dynamic and social experience, please join us at the Family Physician Health and Well-Being Conference June 5-8 in Phoenix.

Posted at 09:09AM Apr 16, 2019 by Shawn Martin

 

Article provided by Stephen Bradley

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