Physicians Must Speak Out against Healthcare Challenges

December 23, 2016

As we look to 2017, physicians and practice owners can't afford to be quiet anymore. They must speak up if they want to improve their situation.

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.

Be a Stuban, not a Logan.

Let me clarify. I recently read an article from The Washington Post about a soon-to-be retired government worker who sent a companywide email blasting his bosses on the way out. Michael Stuban, a midlevel manager at the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, was leaving his job after 35 years. Before he left, he filled out an employee exit questionnaire where he thoroughly ripped the organization's management and then proceeded to send it to 2,000 people in the organization.

In the questionnaire, Stuban called management "rudderless," he said there was no morale, that there was no input asked from people who work in the field, and that employees are kept in the dark. "The first 30 years I felt like I was part of a team; the last years I felt as an outsider, that we, in the field don't matter," he wrote, according to a copy of the questionnaire obtained by PennLive. He didn't like the phoniness (sic) either nor that jobs were filled politically, not based on merit.

It's definitely unique to see someone air these kinds of complaints in this manner. While many people might feel a certain level of frustration with their employer, how many would be willing to share those thoughts with 2,000 other people? Soon-to-be retired or not, it's a bold move.  After all, Stuban could have kept those thoughts to himself and let those issues be someone else's problem.

What really grabbed me about this story though was the response I read from the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission Chairman, Sean Logan.

First, Logan responded quite harshly to the companywide email by saying he was glad he had never met Stuban. He also said the organization "couldn't be to [sic] bad of a place considering you stayed for 35 years. Best of luck in your retirement." In case you missed it, Stuban's point just flew right over Logan's head.

That wasn't all though, Logan proceeded to tell PennLive, "I thought it was a very disingenuous way to communicate your issues." Instead, Logan suggested communicating the criticism in a more appropriate manner. He also said that they're running a billion dollar organization and 'can't put everything out there" to employees.

Can you be more out of touch than Logan? I couldn't help but cringe reading his comments. In Logan's world, it's not what you say, it's how you say it. No wonder Stuban felt the way he did.

Reading this article made me think of today's healthcare climate. It made me think of the countless number of frustrated physicians and practice owners I've run across since I started at Physicians Practice. Many of these people are small fish in a big pond who feel trapped by regulations - from third parties, such as the government and private payers - and are dissatisfied with medicine.

Whether they're employed or independent, small or mid-sized, specialty or not, the feeling seems to be universal. What's worse is they feel their employers, advocacy groups, and of course, their government representatives are not working for their best interest. When they complain, they feel they're shouting into the abyss.

They probably feel like Stuban felt.

Moreover, many feel they're getting empty responses from the Logans of the world. Faceless suits who don't understand the real problems of those working in the frontlines, who don't seem to want to understand, and get annoyed when people speak out. When you look at the results to this year's Great American Physician Survey, you see an increasingly large number of dissatisfied physicians. This is no accident; it's a trend.

As we close out 2016 and head into a new year with more uncertainty than ever, here's my advice to all of you who feel this way: Keep being a Stuban. Keep speaking out, even if it's by sending a companywide email. Maybe there are better ways to communicate your message, maybe there are not. It doesn't matter. What matters is you get your point across. If you're this angry, you can't afford to play the game the way other people want.

If you're retired or soon-to-be retired, don't pass off the problems to the next generation. Speak out for the next generation. This country can't afford to lose any more good practitioners.

It may be not enough to speak out. I second what Leann and Terrence DiDomenico wrote this past week, join an advocacy group. If your group isn't representing your interests, join another one. Or even better, try to change that group from within.

Don't be afraid. If I've learned one thing this year, it's that you can't sit on the sidelines. If you want this industry - or any facet of life for that matter - to change for the better, you must speak out. Make Stuban proud.

Happy New Year everyone.

 

Follow Gabriel Perna on Twitter at @GabrielSPerna