A just-released and comprehensive survey from The Physicians' Foundation of more than 12,000 primary care physicians in the United States found some troubling—but not entirely surprising—results. America's primary care physicians are very, very unhappy.
Anyone in the physician recruiting business would be advised to take a look at the survey, which was compiled this summer, because it provides a good roadmap for recruiting and retaining.
"This is not necessarily a bad-news survey. It's a great retention tool. Now you know what is frustrating them and you can do something about it," says Kurt Mosley, vice president of business development for Merritt Hawkins & Associates, the physician recruiting firm that compiled the survey for The Physicians' Foundation.
"If I were a hospital HR director, I would have the key findings up. I would circulate them with all the senior leadership, and I would ask ‘how do we fix this?' If this is occurring in our hospital let's do something about it. Let's do focus groups in our hospitals to find out how our physicians feel," Mosley says.
First of all, the source of the primary care physicians' dissatisfaction is not just money, although low Medicaid/Medicare reimbursements were among the top concerns. What jumps out is the overwhelming sense of frustration. Physicians feel they spend too much time on paperwork, to the detriment of their patients; they're tired of hassling with insurance companies over claims discrepancies; and they're very concerned about the financial viability of their practices. They are demoralized.
Here are some key findings from the survey, which has a margin of error of less than 1%:
Mosley says he's surprised by the denial within the healthcare industry over the plight of primary care physicians, even as healthcare already faces a growing shortage of primary care physicians. "What's really unnerving to me is when we talk to state hospital associations and they are unaware of it," he says. "This problem affects everybody. If you don't have primary care physicians you don't have anyone feeding your specialists."
The primary care physician shortage could be exacerbated by the move toward the medical home model, which is supposed to be directed by those same physicians.
Some issues are beyond the problem-solving ability of hospitals and their HR departments. There isn't much you can do to improve Medicare/Medicaid reimbursements. For many primary care physicians, however, the primary focus isn't just money.
"A lot of the medical administration of America tries to solve everything with money and that is not necessarily the case," Mosley says.
Obviously, you have to provide competitive financial compensation, but the Physicians' Foundation survey shows primary care physicians care more about issues liken burdensome paperwork, adequate support staff and ancillary services, collegiality with fellow physicians, and even mundane issues like parking. Those are issues any hospital can address.
So take note HR directors. Physicians are unhappy. They're telling you why. Are you listening?