Where Expectations Meet Frustration

Physicians wonder: what has happened to focusing the practice of medicine on patient care?

By Pamela McKemmie | Remarks | September/October 2008 | Your Voice


Physician Frustration Well-Documented

In a recent essay published online by the New York Times, Sandeep Jauhar, MD, described a conversation with a fellow cardiologist that began with the latter’s saying, “I love being a doctor but I hate practicing medicine.” To illustrate his contention that his work was never done, the colleague pointed to the stack of five large manila packages on his office shelf that represented reports he still had to finish that day. “As a physician, I could empathize. I too often feel overwhelmed with paperwork,” Jauhar said. “But my friend’s discontent seemed to run much deeper than that. Unfortunately, he is not alone. I have been hearing physician colleagues voice a level of dissatisfaction with medical practice that is alarming.”

Almost 60 percent of the 1,250 physicians responding to a 2006 survey from the American College of Physician Executives said they had considered leaving medical practice over discouragement with the state of U.S. healthcare. Nearly 70 percent of survey respondents said they knew at least one physician who had done so already. The top five contributing factors cited by survey respondents were:

  1. Low reimbursement
  2. Loss of autonomy
  3. Bureaucratic red tape
  4. Patient overload
  5. Loss of respect

Universal Healthcare the Final Straw?

With events like these as a backdrop, the suggestion that a significant portion of U.S. physicians anticipates even greater frustration from universal healthcare is hardly surprising.

That is the upshot of an early 2008 physician survey on healthcare reform conducted by physician recruiting firm LocumTenens.com. Among almost 1,400 respondents to our survey, more than 20 percent said they’d stop practicing medicine if universal healthcare coverage is implemented under the new president. While 63 percent said they would continue practicing like they do today, 11 percent indicated they would change occupations and 9 percent said they would retire.

Among the 17% of physician survey respondents who provided an “other” answer to the question of what they’d do if universal healthcare is implemented were some who said it would depend on how universal coverage is structured. Three percent said they’d adapt their practices or practice less than they do today, 3 percent said they were not sure what they would do, and 1 percent said they would stop accepting insurance and go to a fee-for-service reimbursement model.



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