4 Factors that are Causing Physician Dissatisfaction

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PDF-thumb1It’s no small secret that the HIE rollout last week was clunky, incompetent, and error-ridden. Many executives are probably wondering what else awaits them as healthcare reform moves forward.

It’s obvious the next few years will be difficult for the country’s health industry, as hospitals adjust to new employment and reimbursement models and as patients begin to realize the greater role they play in managing their personal care.

But let’s not forget physicians. They’re struggling to adjust as well, and in many ways, their job has been made more difficult by the changes brought on by healthcare reform, reports John Commins at HealthLeaders Media.

Here then are four areas, derived from Commins’ article and a report from the RAND Corp. commissioned by the American Medical Association, that are leading to increased physician dissatisfaction on the job:

1.)  An increasing number of productivity quotas and stricter limits on how much time a physician can spend with each patient.

According to Commins, “the cumulative pressures associated with workload were described as a ‘treadmill’ and as being ‘relentless’” by the hundreds of physicians RAND surveyed.

These “sentiments [were] especially common among primary-care physicians,” he added.

2.)  A lack of collaboration and communication with their professional peers, including how the physicians perceive “collegiality, fairness, and respect.”

“Within the practices studied,” Commins writes, “frequent meetings with other doctors and other health professionals fostered greater collegiality and satisfaction.”

3.)  Red tape mandates both from the feds and from payers.

According to RAND lead author Mark Friedberg, M.D., “What physicians did express was the overall burden of rules and regulations from a large number of sources not limited to the government at all and including also those that were imposed by payers and other entities in the healthcare system.”

4.)  EHRs.

The majority of the physicians surveyed, Commins reports, “expressed deep frustration with costly and overly complicated EHRs that have fallen far short of their promise to improve practice efficiency.”

It’s important to understand, he clarified, physicians don’t necessarily want to go back to paper records. They just want the electronic records to work better.

It may be easy to assume then that physicians are struggling to adapt to the new technology, but Jay Crosson, M.D., AMA’s vice president for professional satisfaction, care delivery, and payment, believes the vendors may actually be the ones who are struggling to adapt.

“In fact, what we may be dealing with here is growing pains for the vendors themselves and the nature of the software. I know in my own personal experience as a physician in a medical group with an EHR that as good as they are, they need continual improvement,” Crosson said. “We need to help the industry itself get through its growing pains.”

As lead author Friedberg, M.D., reminds us, physician satisfaction is vital to the health of any organization. “Our findings at least suggest an alternative reason to really care about physician professional satisfaction by reversing the causal and thinking of professional satisfaction as actually an indicator of quality of care rather than something that is necessary for quality of care to occur.”

As healthcare executives, how are you seeking to enhance satisfaction among your physician base? What kind of feedback have you received from your physicians about their jobs? What can executives do on a local level to meet the needs of physicians?

-by Pete Fernbaugh

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