The Paradox of This Year's Great American Physician Survey

October 6, 2016

The 2016 Great American Physician Survey tells us that physicians still like being physicians, even if the job is more stressful and less lucrative.

Welcome to Editor's Corner. Here, the editors of Physicians Practice will share their thoughts on the happenings in healthcare and look at the industry from a broader viewpoint.

 

Every year, Physicians Practice releases a pulse-type survey of physicians in healthcare. The Great American Physician Survey aims to find out from physicians across all specialties what is on their minds professionally, personally, and politically.

For this year, we surveyed more than 1,300 physicians - and ultimately, we found an interesting paradox. Physicians like being physicians, they are happy with their choice of specialty, but they are not happy with the direction healthcare is headed. They also say the job is more stressful and less lucrative, and blame third-party interference for their woes.

It's a bit odd that these things could be true at the same time.

What's even more interesting - and somewhat perplexing, to me at least - is that 49 percent of respondents wouldn't change up a thing. If they could go back in time, they'd do everything roughly the way they did the first time. In fact, despite all that's wrong with healthcare these days (according to the respondents themselves), only 10 percent said they wish they had picked another career in healthcare as a nonphysician.

I guess it's not as simple as black and white. Yes, physicians are frustrated with the direction healthcare is headed, more than ever. They see third parties, such as payers or the government, as more intrusive than ever. They're considering practice models such as direct-pay practice, which would allow them to forgo payers entirely. They feel high deductibles have hurt their relationship with their patients. They feel that value-based healthcare is a good idea in theory, but a lot harder in practice.

Their list of complaints would probably make Martin Luther blush.

Yet, they still like being physicians. Despite having to collect more copays and deductibles from patients, they still feel they have a strong relationship with their patients (92.7 percent of respondents said so, an overwhelming majority). The actual clinical work they are doing is still fulfilling enough to ensure that all of those negative aspects of the job have not completely dampened their spirit. Ultimately, with a rating of 6.94 on a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being extremely happy, 1 being extremely unhappy), physicians are more happy than not.

It's easy to harp on the negative. We at Physicians Practice do it a lot. It's hard not to harp on the negative feelings that have permeated healthcare these days. It'd be irresponsible to pretend, as Lego Movie said, "Everything is Awesome." Yes, at times, writing about healthcare in 2016 can feel a bit like a scene out of the Debbie Downer skits from Saturday Night Live.

While it's clear there are a lot of issues with healthcare, the Great American Physician Survey reminds us that most physicians still love what they do, in spite of everything else going on. As long as physicians continue to love the actual work they are doing with patients, there is a reason to be optimistic.

 

Follow Gabriel Perna on Twitter at @GabrielSPerna