Our Doctors are Broken -- What’s wrong with Healthcare, Part 2
Our doctors are broken. Medscape, along with several other surveys, measures physician “burnout” every year. “Burnout” is defined as losing enthusiasm for the work, feeling cynical, and feeling little to no personal accomplishment. Physicians reporting at least one symptom of burnout in 2016 averaged 54%[i]. That’s over half.
Really, what “burnout” should be called is “Broken”. These are men and women who have worked their hearts out to get to the point of being practicing physicians, have dedicated their lives to healing, and they are saying they feel little personal accomplishment? They feel cynical? They have no enthusiasm for the work they have prepared to do for over a decade?
Physicians in the essential front-line specialties of primary care and acute-care ; Family Medicine, Pediatrics, Internal Medicine and Emergency Medicine, are among the most broken, with burn-out rates of 54-55%. Increasingly, new physicians are choosing non-clinical careers, taking them away from these frontline positions[ii]. So, while the doctors that are actually taking care of patients are becoming more burnt-out, the doctors who are supposed to be coming in to save-the-day aren’t coming in at all.
Does this matter to you? I hope so. Evidence shows that burnt-out physicians are more disruptive in the clinical environment, have increased medical errors and malpractice and leads to declines in patient-satisfaction and quality of care[iii],[iv].
Remember the last time you, or someone you care about, had a negative interaction with a doctor? Was that a broken doctor? Odds are, yes. And, with over 50% of the front-line doctors burnt-out, you have an excellent chance of receiving care from someone who is incapable of giving you his or her best care and judgment.
Not the most ideal situation.
What can you do about it? First, you don’t have to accept bad care. If you are being cared for by a broken physician; one who seems distracted, too busy, angry or frustrated—you can find out why. Is your doctor overwhelmed with 30 visits a day? Is your insurance company pressuring them into withholding care from their patients because of money or administrative hang-ups? Has your HMO or large physician organization taken away all the autonomy from your doctor, robbed them of all joy in their profession?
You are the one ultimately paying the bill, you can demand change. Write letters to the insurance administrators, ask your employer to switch to a plan that focuses on caregiver wellness. Change your plan, if you have that option. Switch to a Health-Care Sharing plan like Liberty Share, if that will work for you. Then you can pick any doctor you like.
You can pick a Direct Primary Care doctor—who has chosen to leave the system that creates broken doctors.
Now, you might not care what happens to your physician or any other doctor. You might not care whether they are happy or unhappy, buried in debt, frustrated or angry. Ultimately, however, when you really need a doctor, you want them to be fully there, heart and mind fully engaged in taking care of you or your loved ones. So this is a problem that matters to you—because it has consequences for you. That’s worth caring about.