National survey projects growing shortage of primary care physicians as job satisfaction plunges and moral deteriorates.
A survey released today by The Physicians’ Foundation finds widespread frustration and concern among primary care physicians nationwide about their jobs. The dissatisfaction is so prevalent that a dramatic decrease in practicing doctors may be coming in the near future. The survey found that 49 percent of primary care physicians surveyed want to end or reduce their practice in the next three years.
The primary reasons for the widespread dissatisfaction are the heavy burden of non-clinical paperwork, problems getting reimbursed by insurance companies, and government regulations. Physicians say these issues keep them from patient relationships, the most satisfying aspect of their practice.
“Tens of thousands of primary care doctors face the same problems as millions of ordinary citizens: frustrations in dealing with HMOs and government red tape,” said Sandra Johnson, Board Member, The Physicians’ Foundation. “The thing we heard over and over again from the physicians was that they’re unhappy they can’t spend more time with their patients, which is why they went into primary care in the first place.”
The survey found a huge majority of physicians believe that there is a shortage of primary care doctors in the United States today.
“Going into this project we generally knew about the shortage of physicians; what we didn’t know is how much worse it could get over the next few years,” said Lou Goodman, PhD, President, The Physicians’ Foundation. “The bottom line is that the person you’ve known as your family doctor could be getting ready to disappear – and there might not be a replacement.”
The Physicians’ Foundation believes the future of primary care could have a significant impact on the American healthcare debate.
“At a time when the new Administration and new Congress are talking about ways to expand access to healthcare, the harsh reality is that there might not be enough doctors to handle the increased number of people who might want to see them if they get health insurance,” said Walker Ray, MD, Vice President, The Physicians’ Foundation.
Key findings of the report include:
Shortage of Doctors
More than 150,000 doctors nationwide said that over the next three years they plan to reduce the number of patients they see or stop practicing entirely. In that same time frame:
11%, or more than 35,000 doctors nationwide, said they plan to retire
30% said they will cut back on patients seen or work part-time.
13% said they plan to seek a healthcare job removed from active patient care
60% of doctors would not recommend medicine as a career to young people
63% of doctors said non-clinical paperwork has caused them to spend less time with their patients
94% said time they devote to non-clinical paperwork in the last three years has increased
“Declining reimbursement” rated highest on list of issues physicians identify as impediments to the delivery of patient care in their practices, followed by “demands on physician time”
82% said their practices would be “unsustainable” if proposed cuts to Medicare reimbursement were made
65% said Medicaid reimbursement is less than their cost of providing care and 36% said Medicare provides reimbursement that is less than their cost of providing care
Over 33% of physicians have closed their practices to Medicaid patients and 12% have closed their practices to Medicare patients
Only 17% of physicians rated the financial position of their practices as “healthy and profitable”
If they had the financial means, 45% of doctors would retire today
Only 6% of physicians described the professional morale of their colleagues as “positive.” 42% of physicians said the professional morale of their colleagues is either “poor” or “very low”
78% of physicians said medicine is either “no longer rewarding” or “less rewarding”
76% of physicians said they are either at “full capacity” or “overextended and overworked”
“Patient relationships” rated highest on the list of things physicians find satisfying about medicine, while “reimbursement issues” and “managed care issues” rated the highest on the list of issues physicians find unsatisfying about medicine
The Physicians’ Foundation