Primary Care Doctors Need Reform For Job Satisfaction

Armen Hareyan's picture
Doctors and satisfaction

All over the web these past days are the results of a survey done by the Physicians Foundation (a group I had never heard of, actually - nobody told me I had a foundation!) that asked questions about primary care doctors and job satisfaction. The results were very telling:

"94% said the time they’ve devote to non-clinical paperwork in the past three years has increased. 63% said the paperwork has meant they spend less time per patient. 82% said their practices would be “unsustainable” if proposed Medicare pay cuts were made. 78% believe there is a shortage of primary care docs in the U.S. 49% said that over the next three years they plan to reduce the number of patients they see or stop practicing entirely. 60% would not recommend medicine as a career to young people. 42% said professional morale is either “poor” or “very low.” 17% rated the financial position of their practices as “healthy and profitable.” 6% described morale of their colleagues as “positive.”

Here is my reaction as a doctor. It reminds me of the old commercial that claimed: “Four out of five dentists surveyed recommended sugarless gum for those patients who chew gum.” These are basically restating the obvious: primary care will not persist unless things change. The real surprise (as stated in the ACP blog) is the percent of physicians who were in the minority on some of these:

There are some docs spending less time on paperwork and more time with patients? I suppose if I just ignore it or make a bunch of paper airplanes out of the paperwork, I’ll have more time with my patients.

There isn’t a shortage of PCP’s? I suppose those folks belong to the flat-earth society.

Morale is medium or high? Perhaps those respondents would like to share what they are smoking. It seems to make them very happy.


Healthy and profitable? Our practice is profitable, yes, but with all the potential disasters lurking, it sometimes seems like one of the movies where the hero opens a door that you know someone with an axe is standing behind. You know the guy is going to get attacked, but it happens anyway. Do I know what my practice will be like in two years? I have very little I can do but react to whatever guys with axes jump at me.

Now, I do think I would be on the minority on some of these:

* If Medicare cuts happened, we would drop Medicare. That would make us more sustainable.

* I don’t plan on cutting back much in the next few years. I have four kids to put through college. Now if someone wants to throw a lot of money at me to sponsor this blog, I would be willing to listen. I can picture it now: “Musings of a Distractible (Wal-Mart) Mind” or “Musings of a Concerta-Treated Mind.”

* If someone likes to care for people, being a doctor is still a good thing to do. The politics need to be fixed, but by the time someone gets through med school and residency, the situation will have to be resolved to some extent. Either the Socialized Death Star will destroy our planet, or somehow Luke will trust the Force and raise reimbursement.

However, did you know that even the Death Star can be put to good use?

Written and reported by Dr. Rob at and reprinted under Creative Commons License.