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Why Doctors Don’t Want to Be Doctors Any Longer

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

"Yes" and "No" street signs with blue skies in the backgroundThe usual challenges of physician recruitment, physician relations and physician marketing are all contending with an unhappy dynamic: Many doctors simply don’t want to be a doctor any longer.

After investing ump-teen years in earning their much-prized white coat, it looks like many docs want to hang it up. They are either ready to get out of the profession or have their eye on the exit. And that may be as soon as the next 12 to 24 months.

Here’s some the background to help administrators, communications professionals and physician relations executives understand the attitudes and undercurrent.

A little more than one in three physicians (34 percent) are “very likely” or “somewhat likely” to leave their current practice, according to the Wolters Kluwer Health 2013 Physician Outlook Survey. On the flip side, better than half of the respondents (58 percent) are “very unlikely” or “somewhat unlikely” to leave.

Profitability and other issues…

“The top reason,” the survey says, “is that it is hard to make their practice profitable, as cited by 29 percent of physicians. Another 15 percent say the field is no longer rewarding,” and 25 percent responded that it is “time to retire.”

The Wolters Kluwer Survey explored other challenges in medical practices. Not surprisingly, these include:

91 percent            Managing shifting reimbursement models with payers;

90 percent            Financial management in a time of increasing costs and declining reimbursements;

88 percent            Spending sufficient time with patients;

84 percent            Dealing with the impact of the Affordable Care Act (ACA); and

83 percent            Keeping up with the latest research.

“Asked about specific concerns regarding the ACA, 55 percent say the legislation will have either a "very negative" (21 percent) or "somewhat negative" (34 percent) impact on the nation’s overall healthcare costs, and 50 percent say it will adversely affect their practice.”

More reasons why physicians vanish…

Neurologist Heidi Moawad, MD, the author of Careers Beyond Medicine, looked at the broader picture of why physicians leave clinical medicine practice. She writes: “The financial and regulatory pressures that doctors face has made many throw in the towel, unable to sustain a practice that can support quality patient care while still maintaining an income and covering the rising costs of regulatory administrative requirements amid decreasing reimbursement.”

Among her “Top Ten” reasons in this post, doctors leave due to:

-       Frustration

-       Work related stress

-       Indifference

-       Enter something new

-       Become entrepreneurs

-       Pursue non-medical directions

-       Seek new professional challenges

-       Pursue non-profit or charity venture

Additional reading, see: Physician Relations: The Turbulent Intersection of Doctors and Hospitals and Medicine is a Profession, but Healthcare is a Business.

Stewart Gandolf, MBA


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