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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Physicians reach "tipping point" in dissatisfaction, plan to exit in droves--thanks to government interference

Regulatory paperwork and government interference are
driving physicians out of medicine; a third plan to quit or cut hours.
Over a third of all physicians plan to quit medicine or cut hours, and three in five say Obamacare imperils the future of medicine, citing regulations and paperwork as top reasons for their intense dissatisfaction.
These are not Republican talking points but the published results of the premier nationwide survey of American physicians, taken every two years by the prestigious Physicians Foundation. According to the Foundation:
"Over half of physicians surveyed have reached a tipping point and plan to make changes to their practices. Many intend to take one or more steps likely to reduce patient access to their services, limiting physician availability at a time when doctors already are in short supply."
Over 59 percent said the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) has made them less positive about the future of healthcare, compared to 18.5 percent who said PPACA has made them more positive (p. 34).
Other survey findings prove similarly alarming:
Over 84 percent of physicians agree that the medical profession is in decline (p. 7).
Physicians cite as top reasons for decline of medical profession:
1. regulations/paperwork
2. loss of autonomy
3. erosion of the physician/patient relationship (p. 19).
Part II of the survey suggests that physicians are at a tipping point at which they will seek ways to further disengage from today’s medical practice environment, reducing their hours, decreasing the number of patients they see, and accepting the status of salaried employees – trends that should be of urgent concern to both policy makers and the public (p. 29).
Over a third (35.4%) plan to retire or cut hours (p. 22).
Physicians are working fewer hours on average and seeing fewer patients than four years ago. If these patterns continue, over 44,250 full-time-equivalent (FTE) physicians could be lost from the workforce in the next four years (p. 11).
Over one in four (26.1%) docs spends up to 20 hrs. per week on paperwork; over one in seven (15.9%) spend more time than that (p. 39).
Over three in four (78.4%) docs describe themselves as either maxed out or overextended (p. 40).

Solutions

Over half (55.7% of docs see health savings accounts as an effective cost solution (p. 33). While a surprising third of docs (36.3%) see a single payer system as a solution to cost, nearly half (48.3%) see it as negative (p. 33).
Less government regulation” was rated as the most positive solution to cost and access challenges, followed by “evidence-based medicine” and “widespread adoption of health savings accounts” (p. 37). 
Physicians cite defensive medicine as top driver of health costs (p. 31), so malpractice liability reform should be near the top of policy makers' legislative lists.

Conclusion

Unless policy makers take note of and address these serious concerns and statistics, you may not be able to find a doctor to care for you in the near future--regardless of what health laws are in place by then. If we want physicians to stay in and students to choose medicine as a career, we will need to:

  1. Restore medical decision making to the physician-patient relationship.
  2. Reform malpractice law to cut defensive medicine.
  3. Cut government interference by reducing the regulatory and bureaucratic burden on physicians.


 

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