1 in 3 Physicians Plans to Quit Within 10 Years

A survey of doctors by a healthcare staffing recruiting firm finds widespread job dissatisfaction triggered by sweeping changes in medicine due to healthcare reform and market demand.

28 comments on "1 in 3 Physicians Plans to Quit Within 10 Years"
Chris (3/7/2013 at 11:49 AM)

to Mike 21 : Mike, can I ask you how much school and training have you completed to get a job at the health care company ? How much have you studied and paid in tuition fees, compared to a doctor ? How exactly would your company increase profits, so that you can get a raise ? The only way for a health company to increase profits is by cutting reimbursement to doctors and limiting coverage to patients. Am I wrong ?
Elissa G (8/22/2012 at 1:16 AM)

We also can see patient burnout when patients are spending hours waiting to see a referred doctor and getting an intern. Then getting referrals to specialists, then referred for physical therapy where you are in a factory learning to pull a rubberband and squat twice and repeat. Getting better can be frustrating for clients who have multiple medical issues and limited financial means and ambulatory difficulty. Multiple requests for repeated mri's and more tests that patients don't even understand and then we have the medications. The long list of pills that have side effects and then more tests. When do the physicians have the time to coordinate treatment call the specialists and read reports? Getting to treat the whole person is what doctors go into medicine for and what about the psychosocial component. Do they have the time to assess the stressors the fear of having a chronic illness? painkillers are like tic tacs these days and sometimes the moments that a healer can give to explain all options and patients choices are good medicine as well as a smile and a calm bedside manner and common sense. How about the clients who have side effects from antidepressants that trigger tardive dyskinesia who then go for Parkinson's disease treatment. The patients who take fibromyalgia meds or antipsychotics and then gain weight and swell ger referred for breast reduction or gastric bypass surgery? Physicians that are not concierge physicians have a hard time and managing symptoms and complete assessments need time. I salute the physician who cares and can maintain balance in their lives and continue to provide well rounded care and follow up to sick people who can be really difficult due to fear and pain.
Mike21 (8/6/2012 at 4:11 PM)

Where are these physicians going to work? The USA has the highest paid physicians in the world. There are only so many positions in research or working for a health plan. So if they are going to retire early, then they must be paid enough! I work for a healthcare company and we have not had a raise in three years. They should quit complaining and do what the rest of us do. Be happy you have a fulfilling job!!
Jameskatt (8/3/2012 at 1:31 AM)

This argues for physicians who are unhappy with managed care medicine to go into concierge medicine or simply stop accepting health insurance. Those who have done so are very happy with their ability to practice medicine with the focus solely on providing the best care for their patients.
Dr Rosemary Eileen McHugh (8/1/2012 at 5:16 PM)

As a family physician, I believe there is a great need for primary care physicians such as family physicians, who deal with the whole person and help to coordinate the patients' care with the other specialists, who have a narrower scope of practice. I believe that more medical students will see the need for primary care physicians and train in the primary care specialties under the new Obamacare. That will be good for the American public to have more coordinated care among all of the specialties.
vince (8/1/2012 at 6:55 AM)

early retirement is one thing, telling the next generation to NOT go to med school, that's the big long term problem expect a shortage in a few decades
anon (7/31/2012 at 10:10 PM)

and where are they going to go when they quit? Why did they get to be Physicians in the first place? Money? That should not have been their first reason!
Heath Bonner (7/30/2012 at 9:07 PM)

This is an interesting story... I think there are several factors at play here: 1) many physicians are not good business people. The overhead of compliance with ACA puts many off, and not a lot of doctors look at that overhead simply as the "cost of doing business." There will also be a need to have guides to navigate through the un-characterized and un-studied law that is ACA, and many doctors look at that strictly as a cost and not an investment. The cost of malpractice insurance and compying with ACA probably leads many docs to conclude they can't stay in business. 2) the question I would have is: with all the specialized training and the lifestyle they are accustomed to, what do these physicians who plan to quit, plan to do with themselves and how will they generate a livelihood that meets their expectations? 3) Many of the physicians in the specialties listed in the article, are more altruistic than they want to let on. For example, hem-oncs, by the nature of the work they do and whom they do it for, are not strictly concerned about the bottom line. You can't take care of cancer patients strictly for the money. 4) for the types of physicians described in #3, there is a lot to like, including no lifetime caps. So there might be more of a compelling reason to stay in medicine, since these doctors will not have to deal with the crushing heartbreak of not being able to treat someone simply due to the cost factor. 5) there is a genuine concern, in my mind, of adding layers of bureaucratic indecision, along with the requirement for "evidence-based medicine" and comparative medicine, which may truly frustrate physicians and patients. This will be especially poignant in the specialties listed in the article. The need for reform of the ACA is a clear issue, to maintain that link between physicians, patients, and the therapies they seek to address serious and potentially fatal diseases. My prediction is that although many doctors complain now and plan to exit the practice of medicine, they will re-consider and stick around. The business model they choose may look different than we, or they, expect, in the next 10 years.
Regen Parks (7/30/2012 at 4:03 PM)

I can certainly understand why doctors would want to quit within 10 years. If healthcare reform were to take over completely, I can easily picture a very bleak future for healthcare in general. Many of the finest doctors that we have in this country would probably retire early, quit, or only be available on a part-time basis. This could really hurt patients. Healthcare reform would mean it would be a lot like waiting in line at the DMV. It will compltely strip away the personalization and relationship that doctors have with their patients. Simply put, socialized medicine DOES NOT WORK! Our government needs to quit interfering with private practices and how they do their business. in addition, I also believe that insurance companies should be allowed to compete against each other,in terms of pricing to gain back some of the healthy competition in this country.
annoymois (7/30/2012 at 3:11 PM)

If you look at it its really not that much with the malpractice premiums that they pay just to practice medicine and with all the new healthcare reform coming out it really not worth it.
AG (7/30/2012 at 1:14 PM)

Sounded like these doctors just complain about wanting higher pay and/or disagree politically. In my humble opinion, Doctors get paid outrageously more than normal worker bees (blue and white collars), if compare by hours. I have doctor friends who complain that getting paid $300,000 per year was too little. Many people, who get paid $300,000 or more per year, can and likely will retire early too.
Mark Miller (7/30/2012 at 11:36 AM)

If a partial take-over of healthcare by the federal government cause this kind of reaction from doctors, what can we expect if and when the government takes it over completely. I suspect an even larger bureaucratic nightmare would entice an even greater exodus of qualified doctors as an even more ineffecient behemoth dictates what doctors what can do for their patients. The domino effect on healthcare would be staggering on the economy and the resultant lost tax revenue due to a dwindling private sector economy will ensure a quicker meltdown of our great nation.
Anonymous (7/30/2012 at 9:12 AM)

The key thing statistics people need to look before making conclusions is that "55% or 97 physicians" of those surveyed. Blah Blah Blah Who cares, right? WRONG, if you think about it quick: that is ONLY about 190-200 physicians that were surveyed. 190-200 physicians surveyed that "plan to quit within 10 years" compared to the 600,000 (1) to 900,000 (2) nationwide is a misleading statement and this so called survey should be invalidated. WHY? If you really think a small percentage represents the 600-900k total population of physicians, then I cannot help you. Sources: (1)http://www.numberof.net/number-of-doctors-in-usa/ (2)http://answers.google.com/answers/threadview?id=569685
W. Osler (7/30/2012 at 8:51 AM)

According to Google, Deborah Lafky, PhD, was a program officer for HHS, Office of National Coordinator for Health IT. She is now the assistant dean of Univ. Os South Alabama College of Medicine, director at the Center for Strategic Health Innovation. Her PhD is in management information systems. Unfortunately, her comment does not allow us to determine on what she bases her conclusion. On its face, it is dismissive of the professsion of physician. As a practicing physician, I can not comment on the national evironment but I can say that in the past 6 months, my group of 90 physicians has had 10 leave the profession. None retired, all between 40-60 yrs of age. We of that generation, were attracted to the profession by a mix of altruism and autonomy. Both are signficantly diminished. The Wash Post recently wrote about the contracted lifeguard fired for rescuing someone in the area not coverd by his contract. Like many areas, health care is outsourcing, not to off shore, but to hired, minimally trained, minimally paid, protocol driven providers. The industry does not want independent, questioning thinking providers. Unfortunately, that is what we were trained to be, and what we want to be. Like Mark Twain, we watch the smoke from a train and realize the riverboat captain is unwanted, unneeded and through. Many of my colleagues wish they had known. But lets face it, there is no hope, we are not wanted anymore, except by the sick patient, who is just out of luck.
Robert Sterling (7/30/2012 at 6:35 AM)

Interesting timing. The key point of the article seems to be: "It used to be the family doctor treated your family for years basing the decisions on what is best for you and your family. Whereas an employed doctor not only has to take into account not only what is best for you and your family but also what the organization will allow him to do and what the organization's guidelines for treating you are." That has nothing to do with the ACA, but everything to do with the rise of HMOs vs traditional insurance [INVALID] a transition that occurred about a quarter-century ago. I believe that the real issue is not the ACA, but rather the managed-care companies increasingly prioritizing their bottom lines above patient outcomes.
Ron (7/30/2012 at 12:06 AM)

Regarding the above comment, I respectfully disagree that physician are just using this survey to vent their anger or frustration and are unlikely to leave a career that they have spent years to enter. In medical circles, it is well known that there has been a steady increase in physicians leaving clinical practice for other types of jobs that do not require them to deal with all the red tape, insurance company hassles, Medicare reimbursement hassles, and being pushed around by the hospitals and HMOs that keep trying to dictate how a physician should practice. Some go into administrative jobs that need a background in medicine. Some become medical writers or medical expert journalists who are hired by news agencies like CNN, BBC, various medical journals and magazines. Some become entrepreneurs. I personally know an MD who was hired by a law firm specializing in medical liability and negligence lawsuits to be an expert advisor. There are many options for someone with a MD degree. That is good for the physicians, but not so good for the country since we are increasingly facing a future shortage of physicians, especially in rural areas. As efforts increase to improve insurance coverage for everyone, so will there be an increase in people who will look for medical care.
Jackie James (7/29/2012 at 2:53 PM)

I agree with Deborah, physicians, especially those in the over 40 demographic, seem to be particularly disillusioned. This environment(today's economically driven health system) is not what they signed up for when they decided to go to medical school. It is not surprising they are unhappy with the drastic changes. It is my opinion as the younger generations of doctors begin to dominate the ranks of physicians, a highly controlled health care system will seem like the norm to them.
Allen Wenner (7/29/2012 at 7:13 AM)

"Leaving" may not mean doing something else. Another way physicians are "leaving" is changing their office model: for example, going into concierge medicine. By accepting cash for services, they can cut overhead by not paying 1-2 people in their office to deal with insurance companies, avoid the travails of adopting electronic health records, and charging market, not discounted, rates for their service. As implementation of PPACA evolves, it will create a physician shortage by adding 30 million currently uninsured to the people calling for an appointment. The deluge presents a real challenge to health care delivery for 2014. Why are we making physicians so unhappy? How much does an unhappy doctor affect your health care? Why aren't we encouraging information technology tools to make physicians more productive and to improve the workplace? Why is there the 50-mile CMS prohibition to tele-medicine? Why is internet practice of medicine illegal (Kwikmed wiki)? Why aren't we liberalizing state board attitudes about non-visit care to improve physician work practices? When will we change the workflow with technology tools like Instant Medical History that replace 70% of the documentation costs while increasing patient quality (Bachman, Mayo Clinic Proceedings)? Author disclaimer: Systems Designer Primetime Medical Software.
James D VanHoose (7/29/2012 at 12:17 AM)

Don't be surprised when droves of experienced physicians decide that enough is enough with the negative changes in healthcare resulting from government over-regulation and private insurance companies calling the shots. Watch as Obamacare is thrust upon doctors causing progressive socialization of a profession that used to be one of the most desirable and honorable our young people could aspire to pursue. Fewer doctors means less access and longer waits. The increasing commoditization of medicine and disrespect for those who devote their lives to help others will ultimately lead to unavoidable "brain drain" and a progressive decrease in quality healthcare.
Monday G (7/28/2012 at 6:12 PM)

Are they threatening to quit really because of healthcare reform or just overall dissatisfaction in the industry. I'm slightly confuse on how the reform hurts them and grow they care for patients. The way I see is this guarantee they receive payments on every patient that works thru their door so long as everything is properly documented rather than the guess work in self payor. Have we looked at the percentage of self payor and the percent collected? Quitting is never the answer. Let's have ways to make the system work
Robert Suter, D.O. (7/28/2012 at 4:45 PM)

This survey just scratches the surface... When I see physicians who have reduced their hours, no longer accept Medicare and Medicaid patients, and many who no longer see patients in the hospital, it makes me think that we should anticipate larger gaps than current estimates predict. 1 in 3 physicians leaving the work force in the next 10 years would not surprise me.
Michael Lichter (7/28/2012 at 2:55 PM)

The numbers given in the article don't add up. If there were 2218 responses, the 34% planning to quit the profession would number 754. If 55% of those 754 planning to quit were under 55, they would number 415. The article says instead that 97 doctors were under 55. If that's 55% of the number planning to retire, then 176 were planning to retire, not 415. If 176 is 34% of the total responses, then there were 519 responses, not 2218. A report from Jackson can be found here: http://www.jacksonhealthcare.com/media-room/surveys/physician-practice-trends-survey-2012.aspx. This report does not include the counts cited in the article. Like the article, it says nothing about how physicians were sampled, the mode of survey administration, or other details that must be available for savvy readers to evaluate the quality of the study.
Ransom Towsley (7/28/2012 at 12:47 PM)

Seems to be some romanticizing about the old days of family practice by specialists in their 50's who probably have never experienced this type of practice. My understanding is in England physician satisfaction is very high as employee in the National Health Service and that they indeed practice medicine the way these specialists are wishing they did. Why not do a comparison of these two groups?
Brian Lilly (7/27/2012 at 3:22 PM)

They plan to quit and do what exactly? Open up a flower shop? Doctors threaten to quit all the time when there is perceived change. Yet, we continue on. Health reform just says that everyone must have insurance. Why is that so scary?
Outsider Inside (7/27/2012 at 2:56 PM)

All due respect, Deborah, but you are naive if you believe physicians who quit don't have other career options. Far from it. In fact, the incredible bureaucracy of health care will be more complex than ever - creating a demand for private healthcare consultants (i.e., doctors) to help states manage the byzantine process of establishing government-mandated insurance exchanges. To say nothing of the so-called "health advisory" panels that are being established - likely to be staffed and/or advised by physicians who would rather consult and get paid by the fed, than deal with its highly inefficient payment system. Additionally, the nurse practitioners who will benefit from the ACCA have a limited knowledge of therapeutics. Here again, doctors retiring from practice [INVALID] not retiring altogether, which you incorrectly infer [INVALID] will see a new career opportunity to work on retainer for NPs. I agree these are threats and doctors sense a loss of control over their workplace. But for you to suggest these are idle threats, and that doctors will simply knuckle under, is a faulty apprehension.
Roger Berwanger (7/27/2012 at 1:33 PM)

20 million more people to be served by about 136,000 fewer physicians IF only 17% quit and the medical schools see a shortage of 150,000 new physicians (WSJ, April 2010). And a quote from the same WSJ article: "As a specialist physician I will suggest that until primary care physicians can earn 70-80% of what most specialists make without killing themselves, there will be no incentive for the best and the brightest to go into primary care. " Hmmm.... What does this portend?
Carl Trusler (7/27/2012 at 12:59 PM)

I don't know who Debra Lafkey is, but she sounds like an administrator or a government official. I am a family physician who has just completed 33 years in private practice. I have not had a financial need to work for the past 8 years, but I have continued to practice because I love my patients and my work. But that love is now almost outweighed by the EHR and the multiple entities that intrude into the practice of medicine. I am likely to quit practice and find some other way to occupy my time; practicing medicine has become sheer drudgery.
Deborah Lafky (7/27/2012 at 11:36 AM)

People who are unhappy with their work environment are always threatening to quit.. This is nothing remarkable. It is an especially common response when the workplace changes in ways over which the worker has little control. In the case of physicians, this threat rings rather hollow. They have invested many years and staggering amounts of money in order to pursue this career. What will they do for a living if they quit this job? I see this survey as morr of an opportunity for physicians to vent about their discomfort over change than as a real measure of their intent to leave the field.


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