3 in 5 Physicians Would Quit Today If They Could

Being a doctor isn’t a happy profession in 2012: 3 in 5 doctors say that, if they could, they’d retire this year. Over three-fourths of physicians are pessimistic about the future of their profession. 84% of doctors feel that the medical profession is in decline. And, over 1 in 3 doctors would choose a different professional if they had it all to do over again.

The Physicians Foundation, a nonprofit organization that represents the interests of doctors, sent a survey to 630,000 physicians — every physician in the U.S. that’s registered with the AMA’s Physician Master File — in March-June 2012. The Foundation received over 13,000 completed surveys back. Findings from these data are summarized in the Foundations report, A Survey of America’s Physicians, published in September 2012.

Morale among physicians is much lower than it was in 2008, as shown in the first chart. Five years ago, less than 1 in 2 doctors would opt to retire; that’s up by over one-third. What’s driving doctors toward pessimism are the least satisfying aspects of practicing medicine in 2012, including:

Concerns about liability, 40%
The hassle of dealing with Medicare, Medicaid and government regulations, 27%. Over 52% of doctors said they’ve limited access to Medicare patients to their practices, or they’re planning to do so.
Lack of work/life balance, 25%
Uncertainty about health reform, 22%
Paperwork, 18%. The survey found that physicians spend over 22% of their time on non-clinical paperwork, resulting in a huge clinical productivity loss.
EMR implementation as a “least satisfying” aspect of work is quite low on the roster of concerns, with only 9% of doctors noting that as a prime concern in 2012.

As a result of uncertainty due to health reform, regulation and finance/reimbursement, the percent of physicians who remain independent will drop to 33% in 2013, Accenture forecasts, from 57% in 2000, 49% in 2005, and 43% in 2009. Aligning with a health system/hospital gives doctors more economic security and fewer administrative hassles.

Health Populi’s Hot Points: In the midst of this quite depressing survey outcome, there’s one bit of data that’s encouraging: 80% of doctors said that “patient relationships” are the most satisfying aspect of medical practice, replacing “intellectual stimulation” as the #1 satisfaction factor in 2008.

That physicians note relationships with patients is a prime motivator and job satisfier means they’re open to patient engagement and participatory health in 2012. The positive results found earlier this week in the OpenNotes project (covered in Health Populi here) illustrates an emerging era of patient-doctor teamwork. This convergence is good news as the U.S. health system moves toward accountable, value-based care where patients — the most under-utilized resource in the U.S. health system — must join forces with physicians and other clinical care providers as co-creators of health. ..

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IshrathDave KirbyNatasha Deonarain, MD, MBAMD as HELLMG Recent comment authors
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Every profession has its pros and cons. Yeah, the grass is always green on the other side.

Guess… grass is greener where you choose to water it.

Natasha Deonarain, MD, MBA

Here’s a quick synopsis, Dave. Malpractice premiums (all specialists and primary) max at 1500 – 2000 per year in Canada and New Zealand. My brother is an ED physician in NZ and pays about 500/year. Salaries are about 120 – 250 / year for PCP / ED, tax rate in NZ is 33% compared to about 34% in US, EVERYONE has access to health for nominal premiums in some provinces or free in Alberta and NZ. No one goes bankrupt from healthcare after getting shot, like the situation in Aurora. Disposable income is higher per capita; physicians, while still rumbing… Read more »

Dave Kirby
Dave Kirby

Could you compare and contrast the situation with US physicians with physician populations in other first world societies?

Natasha Deonarain, MD, MBA

I just want to say this as a 20 year primary care veteran – I LOVE MY LIFE!! I LOVE all this dissention, this upset, this shift, this transformation! I LOVE that the world is emerging into a new consciousness, that we can strip down our egos and scruitinize the real crux of the problem – our myopia inside a system that WE have created, and now, if we want to find a solution, WE must destroy! So, instead of hating life as we know it, why not DO something about it – without fear? Why not endulge in a… Read more »


At one time it was fun. Now it sucks. So, to answer your question, no.


Do U.S. physicians ever not overwhelmingly complain about the state of medicine and their careers?