Healthcare News & Insights

Physician survey: Would they choose the ‘noble profession’ all over again?

Are the physicians who work in your facility happy? They may be happier than those who are in private practice, according to a new physician survey. 

sb10063567v-001The 2013 Physicians Practice Great American Physician Survey, sponsored by Kareo, found that overall, physicians are still happy with their choice of professions. On a scale of one to 10 (10 being the happiest), the 1,172 physicians who answered the online survey averaged out to about an eight on the happiness scale.

In fact, 60% of the respondents said if they had to do it all over again, they would do it roughly the same way they did the first time. An additional 14% said they would still become physicians, but they would pick a different specialty.

On the flip side, however, 22% who said if they could go back in time, they would pick a career that wasn’t in health care.

Happiness scale

What’s interesting about the happiness factor is the relationship to age the survey uncovered. For example, when given the statement “I like being a physician,” 72% of physician in the 65 and older age group chose “strongly agree,” as did 61% of the 56 to 64 age group.

But only 44% of physicians in the 36 to 45 age group selected strongly agree, and 47% of the 35 and under age group said the same.

Could it be because the older physicians see the light at the end of the tunnel, as far as retirement goes?

That could be part of it, but what’s probably at the heart of the disillusionment are a few things:

  • medical school graduates accumulate somewhere between $150,000 to $250,000 in debt and it takes a long time to pay off and cuts into their take-home pay, and
  • too much third-party interference with practicing.

Then add to that the looming Affordable Care Act — which only 49% said they strongly supported — and how that’s going to affect practicing medicine and you can see how the younger physicians would be more frustrated than the soon-to-retire ones.

In fact, 32% of the physicians said if they had to pick one reason for not becoming a physician again, it would be too much third-party interference with practicing.

Needs and wants of physicians

Seventy-seven percent of the survey respondents said they became doctors because it was clinically stimulating. However, the administrative hassles of a private practice are less than stimulating, causing some to leave private practice and instead work for hospitals.

While some physicians miss the adrenaline rush of acute care, others are just sick and tired of flat reimbursements and high patient volumes needed to maintain office practices because it takes away from providing top-notch patient care. So much so that 37% gave lack of adequate insurance coverage as the main barrier to providing good health care and 19% said it was not having enough time to educate patients.

But physicians not only want more time with their patients, they want more time with their families and more time for themselves:

  • 68% of physicians said they don’t have as much time as they should for their personal lives
  • 56% of physicians said they wished they worked fewer hours per week
  • 35% said they’d be willing to sacrifice money for more time, and
  • More than one out of four said they spend fewer than six waking hours with their family during the work week.

What the future holds

While it’s true that many physicians are concerned with healthcare reform, not many have done much about it.

In fact, 59% said they haven’t made any changes to their practice yet because of it. And 46% said they plan to keep on doing business as usual over the next five years.

However, hospitals might start to see more practice-based physicians transferring to hospital work. Seven percent said they plan to transition to a hospital or merge with other practices, 8% said they’d morph their practice to concierge medicine or direct pay, and 3% plan to join an accountable care organization.


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