What Happens When a Physician Has Time?

December 1, 2016

Physicians are being preoccupied with more and more requirements, which is unfortunate. Their time is precious, for many reasons.

For many physicians, the best part of their job is caring for patients.  Being a doctor is said to be a calling and providing care to patients in need is fulfilling their life's work. This was according to a recent study.

The physicians reported in the study that the next best part of their job was being able to participate in intellectual pursuits related to their field.   After all, doctors are not just hands-on healers - they are also scientists.  They need time to explore new treatments, participate in studies and trials, take continuing education classes, and network with their peers in order stay on top of the very latest and best approaches to care.

But what happens when a doctor just doesn't have time?    The pressure put on today's physicians is enormous, and with changes related to the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA) coming up, it's likely to only get worse.  Can a doctor truly enjoy their job if they don't have time to spend with patients and they don't have time to pursue their craft either?  

And what about a physician's personal life?  Doctors are people like everyone else.  They need time - not just for relaxation and to spend with their family - but also to participate in meaningful volunteer and civic projects. 

Physicians are among the most trusted and respected members of our communities, and good things come from physicians who have time. 

One of our clients, a gastroenterologist, recently led a promising study about medical food and how it can be used to treat pouchitis and perhaps even other inflammatory diseases of the bowels.  This is important work to which he needed to devote significant time.   Other clients have travelled internationally on missions to volunteer in underdeveloped countries, providing life-saving medical care to communities in need. 

In other communities, physicians volunteer to work side by side with local emergency responders as a medical resource, or serve as a trusted medical authority when local health issues arise.   We have worked with physicians who have authored fictional medical crime novels, self-help health books to improve people's day-to-day nutrition, worked closely with local autism awareness groups, had art exhibitions in their community, and even had acting and singing "gigs" on the side.  

This kind of work enriches all of us.  It cannot happen when a physician has to run full speed on the hamster wheel of volume care just to stay afloat.  Nor can it easily occur when a physician is an employee with productivity expectations and strict limits on personal time.  

At a time when the country is facing physician shortages in many areas, it's critically important that physicians have fulfillment in their careers - with more time spent caring for their patients and less time entering codes into a computer.  More time serving as active, educated members of their community, less time worrying about how to keep their practices afloat.

Doctors need to find ways to carve more time out of their day. This can't come at the expense of their practice, though.  Necessity is the motherhood of invention, and that is true for doctors, even in these trying times. Physicians have introduced a wide variety of new practice models and programs that allow them more time with patients, more time for the science of medicine, and more time for themselves.