Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Increasing Number of Doctors Hate Practicing Medicine

And I thought lawyers had it bad:
In surveys, increasing numbers of doctors attest to diminishing enthusiasm for medicine and say they would discourage a friend or family member from going into the profession.

There are serious consequences to this discontent, the most worrisome of which is that it is difficult for doctors who are so unhappy to provide good care.

Another is a looming shortage of doctors, especially in primary care, which has the lowest reimbursement of all the medical specialties and probably has the most dissatisfied practitioners.

The culprits? Overwhelming paperwork and payment problems from patients and insurance companies. Both of which are problems exacerbated by too much government involvement in the healthcare system, a legal system in need of tort reform, and over-usage of insurance to pay for medical treatment.

Dr. Helen adds:

What struck me about the article is how most of the doctors mentioned are in their late thirties to early forties. I became frustrated around 37 when I realized that I did not really have the time or energy to chase down payments, beg for authorization and take pay reductions everytime managed care or Medicare decided to cut payments... by the time you have been in the field for some time, have family responsibilities and understand the realities of the "helping profession" you are now stuck in, you finally realize you may need help yourself.

And while for me, it is evaluations and therapy rather than colonoscopies and mammograms, the frustration is the same. Every year I work a little less in my field and turn to other areas to earn a living. But it makes me sad that the field I spent 11 years training for is not the same one I thought I signed up for, and I don't see it getting better. It is disheartening and makes me sad but other than quit, I don't know what else to do.

Very sad indeed.

I had two friends in Orlando who were doctors and both were some of the most frustrated people I knew with their professions. One of them simply wanted out of the profession altogether and the other seemed to never be able to rest. Incidentally, my friends who are nurses seem much happier and far more content with their occupations.

Maybe the rise of things like MinuteClinics (small, quick, cheap clinics -- some located inside CVS drug stores) will help change this some? Who knows, maybe someday you'll be able to pass all that unpleasant paperwork and insurance uncertainty and go to the drugstore for an MRI, ultrasound, or CAT scan?

I sincerely hope new innovations like this in healthcare business models help drive competition and innovation in the way medical treatment is provided and paid for. Anything that can help circumvent the byzantine system of insurance and regulations would be a welcome change indeed.

1 comment:

stephen said...

While insurance paperwork, complicated payment systems, and regulatory hassles may all have an element of blame... The true culprit here seems to be the AMA.

Medical training has not kept up-to-date with changing information technology trends. There's no reason to spend 11 years training someone who would be a BETTER doctor with BETTER outcomes if he simply followed a script. Most medicine is a very mechanical process dictated by probabilities and measurable diagnostics.

It's sad that so many of us in the US are told that if you're intelligent, you should go into medicine. In this era, it's an anachronistic field that only maintains high wages due to the ridiculous licensure process and a powerful union.