6 in 10 Physicians Would Quit Today

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media , September 26, 2012

Doctors are working less, seeing fewer patients, and many would quit if they could, a sweeping survey of 13,575 physicians from across the nation shows.

The survey, A Survey of America's Physicians: Practice Patterns and Perspectives, was commissioned by The Physicians Foundation. It is the latest, and perhaps the largest and most comprehensive of a number of surveys that have identified wide, deep and increasing discontent among the nation's physicians regardless of their age, gender, specialty, location, or employment status.

"It is downbeat and it is a concern. What we are documenting here is a trend and the trend is pretty solid," Walker Ray, MD, vice president of the nonprofit foundation, told HealthLeaders Media.

"Physicians feel powerless. They don't feel like their voices are being heard. They don't feel like they were heard on the run up to healthcare reform and they don't feel like they're being heard now."

"The problem to summarize it is there is an imparative now for physicians to care for more patients, to provide higher perceived quality at less cost with increased tracking and reporting demands in an environment of high liability and problematic reimbursements," he says.

Physicians report working about 6% less than they did in a 2008 foundation survey. "That doesn't sound like a whole lot until you calculate the full-time equivalent physicians who are lost from the workforce," Walker says.

"If this trend continues that would be 44,250 full-time equivalents lost from the physician workforce over the next four years and there is every reason to think that this will occur."

The survey shows that 52% of physicians have already limited the access of Medicare patients to their practices or are planning to do so and 26% have already closed their practices to Medicaid patients, blaming higher operating costs, time pressures and falling reimbursements. 

One hundred thousand physicians will transition to employees over the next four years, and more than 50% of physicians will cut back on patients seen, will switch to part-time, switch to concierge medicine, retire, or take other steps that will result in about 91 million fewer patient encounters, the survey shows.

Walker says that 75% of physicians don't believe that the migration to employment is a positive trend. That includes 62% of employed physicians who consider it a negative. Those physicians who are opting for employment are doing so, he says, for economic security and relief from "an extreme regulatory environment."

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5 comments on "6 in 10 Physicians Would Quit Today"

MargieR (9/29/2012 at 7:25 PM)
My mother quit her practice when she was sued for "malpractice" by a woman who had never been to her office. (the woman's sister's kids were patients of my mother.) She thought she could get a fortune in "damages and claim that the file had been lost. My mother was able to show that the woman had never been there, nor had her kids, but the lawyers went through every one of mom's patient files, looking for something someone could sue her for so that they could collect the big bucks for themselves. No errors were found (Did I mention my mother was obsessive compulsive about her patient records in order to have complete records available to her each time a patient came in.) As soon as the lawyers left, she closed up shop and retired, literally the next day. She took every one of her patient files with her, just in case someone tried the same trick again, all her files would be available. My daughter's pediatrician also retired because he was sick and tired of all the lawsuit threats. Doctors don't quit as much from burnout as from harassment from the legal community. (Ambulance chasers).

Kidydr (9/29/2012 at 7:24 PM)
This article nails the problem with medicine today. The government wants us to provide "medical homes" now where we are expected to do even more for less. As for the gentleman's comment that we don't want to leave because we don't know how to do anything else, the same could be said for any profession, not just medicine. It is IMPOSSIBLE for us to increase our volume without sacrificing quality at some point in time. We train for a minimum of 7 years, after college and accrue $100K plus in debt. We expect fair compensation for that effort. Anyone who says we make too much should go to medical school and see how they feel about compensation afterwards. The fact is that most of us care deeply for our patients and what we do for a living but insurance companies and the government rely upon our good nature and dump on us in the process with substandard reimbursement. Shame on you.

martydiamond1@me.com (9/28/2012 at 2:16 PM)
The findings are significant as they point to increasing dissatisfaction with systems development versus the independent practice option. The latter is rapidly diminishing and will go the way of the buggy whip within ten years. The reimbursement switch is being flipped to quality not piece work. Technology will aid in the measurement of quality and become the basis for meaningful incentives related to evidence-based practice. The next ten years promises to be a period of "adjustment" for clinicians and systems until they learn the benefits of collaborating in order to improve patient outcomes in a patient-centered environment. It took seventy five years to get meaningful health reform, now it will take about twenty five to realize improvements in care. Those motivated to practice medicine will continue to apply in increasing numbers. Marty Diamond




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