Being a doctor isn’t a happy profession in 2012: 3 in 5 doctors say that, if they could, they’d retire this year. Over three-fourths of physicians are pessimistic about the future of their profession. 84% of doctors feel that the medical profession is in decline. And, over 1 in 3 doctors would choose a different professional if they had it all to do over again.

The Physicians Foundation, a nonprofit organization that represents the interests of doctors, sent a survey to 630,000 physicians — every physician in the U.S. that’s registered with the AMA’s Physician Master File — in March-June 2012. The Foundation received over 13,000 completed surveys back. Findings from these data are summarized in the Foundations report, A Survey of America’s Physicians, published in September 2012.

Morale among physicians is much lower than it was in 2008, as shown in the first chart. Five years ago, less than 1 in 2 doctors would opt to retire; that’s up by over one-third. What’s driving doctors toward pessimism are the least satisfying aspects of practicing medicine in 2012, including:

  • Concerns about liability, 40%
  • The hassle of dealing with Medicare, Medicaid and government regulations, 27%. Over 52% of doctors said they’ve limited access to Medicare patients to their practices, or they’re planning to do so.
  • Lack of work/life balance, 25%
  • Uncertainty about health reform, 22%
  • Paperwork, 18%. The survey found that physicians spend over 22% of their time on non-clinical paperwork, resulting in a huge clinical productivity loss.

EMR implementation as a “least satisfying” aspect of work is quite low on the roster of concerns, with only 9% of doctors noting that as a prime concern in 2012.

As a result of uncertainty due to health reform, regulation and finance/reimbursement, the percent of physicians who remain independent will drop to 33% in 2013, Accenture forecasts, from 57% in 2000, 49% in 2005, and 43% in 2009. Aligning with a health system/hospital gives doctors more economic security and fewer administrative hassles.

Health Populi’s Hot Points:  In the midst of this quite depressing survey outcome, there’s one bit of data that’s encouraging: 80% of doctors said that “patient relationships” are the most satisfying aspect of medical practice, replacing “intellectual stimulation” as the #1 satisfaction factor in 2008.

That physicians note relationships with patients is a prime motivator and job satisfier means they’re open to patient engagement and participatory health in 2012. The positive results found earlier this week in the OpenNotes project (covered in Health Populi here) illustrates an emerging era of patient-doctor teamwork. This convergence is good news as the U.S. health system moves toward accountable, value-based care where patients — the most under-utilized resource in the U.S. health system — must join forces with physicians and other clinical care providers as co-creators of health. ..


12 Comments on 3 in 5 physicians would quit today if they could

3 in 5 physicians would quit today if they could - said : Guest Report 8 years ago

[…] Posted at Health Populi on […]

Hug your physician – chances are, s/he’s burned out | Health Populi said : Guest Report 8 years ago

[…] the positive side, note that physicians who feel gratified with their relationships with patients have greater job satisfaction. Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center’s OurNotes project, […]

Sharon Collins BSN BC said : Guest Report 10 years ago

I work in a local hospital & I see this everyday! I see the Physicians being encouraged to discharge the patients within a certain "time frame", however the hospital is penalized if the patient returns to the hospital with problems from being discharged too soon!! They also must cover all aspects of the patient's complaints, so they are not sued later for missing something!! To do this all within a limited frame of time, while rounding on other patients, admitting, writing orders, & learning the new CPOE in the computer..well!! It is taking away time they do get to spend getting to know the patient & researching their is very overwhelming! While, I'm commenting...the Nurses are feeling the same exact way!! I just accepted a part-time position, after 27 yrs full-time & I'm not yet 60 ! If I keep up the way I am, the stress is going to take me down!..can't do it anymore!!

Kaiser Raja said : Guest Report 10 years ago

Well this study may be applicable to United States. Come to India. I do not think, doctors will be unhappy at all. It is a great profession with an immense sense of work satisfaction, even though an average doctor may be working twice as more as an American doctor and earning a lot less.

Nikki in Lancaster PA said : Guest Report 10 years ago

How reliable is a less than 2% response rate? And were the more dissatisfied doc's more likely to 'voice' their opinions, i.e., are they truly representative of the group as a whole? Can't say I personally would repeat these findings. As both Mary and Todd allude to, financial stressors are experienced by most trades and professions as our benefits have fallen and raises no longer get you ahead. The job insecurity and downward income trend of the last couple decades for the middle class will eventually have its effects on all in the 97%, including those nearer the top. That growing wage gap we've all heard about by now is going to cost society in varying ways. Lots of things have to get the squeeze and things like medicare payments are not immune. I believe our biggest downfall has been to create a healthcare system that is philosophically profit driven - it's one of the few things in a civilized society that should be person/patient driven.

Marcos Renato de Assis said : Guest Report 10 years ago

Many people have spoken out against the attitude of arrogance of doctors and in fact reports of a proud behavior from this class of professionals are not infrequent. A few days ago I read a long article speaking against the use of the term doctor to name a physician suggesting that minimizes people that go talk to doctors! Sometimes, for some people, it is fashion to say these guys are villains. However little has been talking about the figure of the doctor in the imaginary of the people. Once upon a time they were heroes. That set of ideas and expectations formerly involving a doctor were part of the process of healing or relief and were forcibly removed. Today we still have a certain enchantment with some new features, especially if they are related to exotic plants, some alternative therapies, gurus and forms of energy that we could not explain well. We lose something valuable in it. What was left was a doctor embedded in a system that offers the aggressiveness of trade, but charges the doctor with a priestly dedication. This is not merely a matter of defending the class, but the question of how to treat the health of everyone. Note that the dissatisfaction of the physician must have a huge influence on the satisfaction you have with your own health care. This is just a point of view of a much broader and complex discussion.

JD Forshee MD said : Guest Report 10 years ago

Very sad to think of those professionals responding, people were willing to invest 10 to 15 years of their life to train, would be willing to walk away. It has always been a caling and will be "doctoring" until the neurons stop funtioning properly.

K C Appu said : Guest Report 10 years ago

Sir/Madam, It has been an interesting read.I am a practising Clinical Cardiologist,in India. The problem we face here is rather different.The concept of managed/insured health care is still not where it should be.Out-patient insurance is largely unavailable.The deliverence of health-care seems to depend on the affordability of the patient[s] themselves.While there is a laudable Health Insurance scheme run bt the Govt.of Tamilnadu, and is in the nature of Public-Private participation,the driving force in the delivery of healthcare systems are ,largely,profit driven, particularly in the Private Tertiary Care level.Hence, the lure of money will tend to keep more doctors in the profession, as current levels of oversight are sadly,very poor, legislation and self-correction absent, and legislation poorly implemented.Liability issues are present but time-consuming and inadequate.

Mary Namovice said : Guest Report 10 years ago

I am not surprised. I have seen this in the primary physician population. While they do cite patient relationships as a positive, this is many times a most frustrating issue. Physicians have been squeezed for productivity, sometimes to the point where they feel they have no patient relationship at all! There are great primary doctors out there that we all seek-those who allow us enough time to fully discuss our health issues. Many physicians who wish to practice this way find that it is not sustainable with the reimbursements that are heading down in the future. Employed physicians find that they are sqeezed so tightly for production reasons that they long for "patient relationships".

LaShé Ingram said : Guest Report 10 years ago

It's possible that those who would retire or choose another profession chose to be a doctor for the wrong reasons.

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