Physicians Say Many Practice, Policy and Social Changes are Harmful to their Profession: Survey

Physicians are pessimistic about the future of the profession due to a convergence of changes in the medical practice environment, leading to overall dissatisfaction and professional burnout, according to a recent survey of nearly 9,000 physicians across the country.

Administered by Merritt Hawkins, an AMN Healthcare Company, The Physicians Foundations’ 2018 Survey of America's Physicians: Practice Patterns and Perspectives examines physicians’ perspectives on the overall impact of changes including regulatory and insurer requirements, loss of clinical autonomy, challenges with electronic health records, and the impact of poverty on healthcare outcomes.

“The perceptions of thousands of physicians in The Physicians Foundation’s latest survey reflect front-line observations of our healthcare system and its impact on all of us, and it’s sobering,” said Gary Price, MD, President of the Foundation. “The career plans and practice pattern trends revealed in this survey – some of which are a result of burnout – will likely have a significant effect on our physician workforce, and ultimately, everyone’s access to care.”

Some of the significant findings of the survey include:

  • 78% of physicians have experienced burnout in their medical practices, and one of the chief culprits contributing to physician burnout is the frustration physicians feel with the inefficiency of electronic health records (EHRs).
  • 88% of physicians have reported that some, many or all of their patients are affected by social determinants such as poverty, unemployment, lack of education, and addictions. Only 1% of physicians said that none of their patients had such conditions.
  • Over 50% don’t believe value-based compensation improves the healthcare system. Nearly 57% of physicians who received value-based compensation did not believe that such metrics improve the quality of care or help to reduce costs.
  • 79% find the most satisfaction in patient relationships, saying that they are their greatest source of professional satisfaction, while intellectual stimulation was a distant second at 55%.
  • Only 10% of physicians believe they have a good or great ability to significantly influence the healthcare system.
  • Nearly 19% of physicians now practice some form of telemedicine.
  • Only 31% of physicians are in private practice, down from 48% in 2014.
  • 80% of physicians report being at full capacity or being overextended.
  • 40% of physicians plan to either retire in the next one to three years or cut back on hours – up from 36% in 2016.
  • 46% of physicians plan to change career paths.
  • 69% of physicians are prescribing fewer pain medications in response to the opioid crisis.

“Our goal at The Physicians Foundation is to give physicians a voice,” said Tim Norbeck, CEO of The Physicians Foundation. “We hope policy makers, healthcare influencers, media and other stakeholders will use the findings of our survey as a valuable resource to better understand the underlying challenges facing our healthcare system and, as a result, will formulate effective policies to advance the health and interests of patients.”