By Jack Cochran & Charles Kenney
“As a PCP, I’ve seen the morale in my area, and I see a major crisis coming if the complaints are ignored.”
“I’ve lived in the hell that is American health care…”
A devoted physician wrote these words in reaction to a recent blog post we wrote. And he is clearly not alone.
In our new book The Doctor Crisis, we report on the widespread unhappiness, frustration, dissatisfaction, and anger of so many American physicians.
We believe this crisis is real and growing; that it is an impediment to providing the care the American people need; that dealing with the doctor crisis is fundamentally patient-centered; and that the crisis has not been recognized for the fundamental threat it poses.
Our recent feature on The Health Care Blog elicited some powerful reaction:
Rob: ”In a certain sense, individual doctors ARE victims of a system that rewards over-consumption, ridiculous documentation, attention to codes over people, and bureaucracy over partnership…”
Jeff: “Can validate what Rob has said. I’ve spent the last three years listening to physicians about the possible alternative futures for their profession, and the overwhelming desire was exactly as Rob said- an overwhelming impulse to flee…”
Some commentators wrote that doctors shouldn’t complain because they earn a lot of money, drive fancy cars and own nice homes. But that theme – accurate in many cases but certainly not all — gets us nowhere.
We think the rubber meets the road with this warning from Dr. Rob, ”…As a PCP, I’ve seen the morale in my area, and I see a major crisis coming if the complaints are ignored.”
Is Dr. Rob overstating it? We don’t think so. In fact, we think he has it exactly right. How can our system function properly if the level of job satisfaction among doctors continues to spiral downward?
Harris Interactive research describes the profession as “a minefield’’ where physicians feel burned out and “under assault on all fronts.’’ Has such extreme language ever been used to characterize the medical profession? Have doctors ever faced a time as turbulent as this?
Doctors are certainly not blameless as both Brian and Rob noted in their comments:
Brian: “…I’m concerned that you have framed your argument as though physicians are victims of the system rather than partial drivers of its characteristics …”
Rob: “…physicians as a group have been complicit in building this system, and so should bear a lot of the blame…”
So what needs to be done?
A crucial first step is for health care stakeholders to recognize and acknowledge the existence of the crisis. Doing so will get the doctor crisis on the national health care agenda. Unfortunately, the matter is not currently a priority for many, if not most, provider organizations. That needs to change.