I am asked from time to time about my perception of the level of physician dissatisfaction with clinical medicine. How do I know that physicians are really dissatisfied with their careers?
I recently came across this article from CNN that adds some credence to my theory. The article was a report on a survey performed by the Physicians' Foundation and was published in November 2008. Of the 12,00 physician respondents, almost 50% said they would leave medicine in the next three years if they could find an alternative. Wow.
To me, the most interesting quote from the article was the following:
"Many said they are overwhelmed with their practices, not because they have too many patients, but because there's too much red tape generated from insurance companies and government agencies."
In my mind it's very simple: allow physicians to practice medicine and everyone is better. The problems occur when insurance companies and lawyers and bureaucrats are allowed to dictate to hospitals and physicians and patients. Clinics and hospitals become assembly lines to push "customers" through as quickly as possible. The number of patients seen per hour must go up because the reimbursement per patient has gone down so much that a system with any delay will not survive. Physicians cannot practice medicine and many patients—even ones with excellent insurance—do not feel they get good medical care from their physicians. It's a mess.
My hope is that Freelance MD and the Medical Fusion Conference will be an avenue to revive many of these physicians who are desperately hanging on. By introducing these physicians to ways they can supplement their incomes and find a niche where they can use their careers in novel ways, I believe many of these people will be able to adjust their clinical responsibilities and be able to enjoy medicine once again.
Instead of waiting for some magic "fix" of the healthcare system to arrive, why not take steps to revive the workers in healthcare that we already have? How many of those physicians in the survey would continue practicing medicine if they could drop their clinical load by 30% and still have their current level of income? How many physicians nearing retirement would continue practicing if they could practice on their own terms? How many young physicians would not give up on their careers if they could figure out a way to better balance their personal lives with their clinical duties?
If society is saying our nation's physicians are a necessary and important resource, then how are we protecting and encouraging this resource?
The ultimate goal of Freelance MD and the Medical Fusion Conference is to encourage and stimulate the physicians in this country. By giving clinicians hope and purpose and an extra measure of control over their lives, I believe we will help physicians practice medicine longer and with more satisfaction.