Doctors continue to hate their jobs — Is the ACA to blame?
Monday, March 16, 2015
In news that we likely all knew (or had an inkling of), physicians are less happy than they have been or could be, a new survey suggests.
There are a number of reasons for the lack of job satisfaction, including bureaucracy and a greater focus on technology and data entry, but the data reflected here — in a recent survey from the healthcare solutions group Geneia — is nothing new. Headlines have been gathering for some time that suggest similar results.
In this new example, Geneia polled 416 doctors in January, finding that 84 percent claim the amount of quality time with patients has decreased over the last 10 years. As reported by EHR Intelligence, "physician burnout is also on the rise, as 67 percent of respondents said they know a doctor who will likely stop practicing medicine within five years."
The survey goes on to say that most respondents are not happy with their work-life balances, with just 25 percent saying they were very satisfied with the work or the nature of it.
The fact is that physicians are not able to practice according to their own desires and that they are overwhelmed large amounts of paperwork (even in a post-EHR world) and regulations of the healthcare market. Almost 90 percent of physicians actually said they felt that the federal regulations are making the practice of medicine worse.
As far as improving physician job satisfaction, Geneia says some doctors are taking active steps for improving their work, including hanging EHR monitors on the wall and "limiting the direct interaction necessary with the systems while enabling the tools to capture more data automatically."
Geneia says that EHR systems may need better design and improved implementation to give physicians more time for direct patient care.
There is almost no change from the data collected in this most recent survey and one conducted by Medscape/WebMD that was featured in Forbes magazine in 2012. According to that survey, dissatisfaction among U.S. doctors — 24,000 doctors representing 25 specialties — was polled at the time, and only 54 percent said they would choose medicine again as a career, down from 69 percent in 2011.
The Medscape survey cited declining incomes and excessive paperwork as among the culprits.
Presently, there are too many "business burdens" for clinicians, says Geneia. Specifically, implementation of EHRs may have occurred too rapidly for physicians to cope with and adjust to the change. The rush was brought on by the federal regulations, primarily meaningful use.
Supporting this claim, in even another survey — this one published in 2014 by Medical Economics — EHRs have taken the place among the top of the most frustrating issues physicians deal with, according to a survey of physicians conducted by the RAND Corporation and sponsored by the American Medical Association (AMA).
The survey looked at overall job satisfaction for physicians in the areas of autonomy, leadership, fairness, work quantity, staff, pay, liability concerns and healthcare reform, but had to be retooled because physicians kept mentioning issues with their EHR systems.
The survey's authors found that EHR systems "represent a unique and vexing challenge to physician professional satisfaction. Few other service industries are exposed to universal and substantial incentives to adopt such a specific, highly regulated form of technology, one that our findings suggest has not yet matured."
At the time, only 35 percent of physicians said theirs EHRs improve their job satisfaction, and 31 percent were overwhelmed by the volume of electronic messages received in the office. Additionally, 61 percent of physicians report that a staff member could do the job of the EHR system, and 43 percent say that their EHR system slows them down.
Physicians surveyed cited a disconnect between the EHR system's capabilities and the actual needs of doctors and practices.
Perhaps what we're experiencing more of than anything else is the seismic shift in the profession as a result of the technology invasion. Once this era has passed, we'll see if physicians continue to despise their jobs or if they can find satisfaction again.
Only time will tell, of course.
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