About half of primary care physicians responding to a survey by The Physicians' Foundation said they plan to reduce the number of patients they see or stop practicing entirely over the next 3 years.
In addition, 94% said the time they devote to nonclinical paperwork in the last 3 years has increased, and 63% said that the same paperwork has caused them to spend less time per patient. Moreover, 78% said they believe there is a shortage of primary care doctors in the United States today, while the same percentage said medicine is either “no longer rewarding” or “less rewarding.”
The survey, which painted a grim picture of primary care physicians' satisfaction with their profession, was mailed to 270,000 primary care physicians and more than 50,000 specialists, and returned by 11,950 physicians.
“I have wanted to be a doctor since I was 4 years old,” wrote one physician in response to the survey. “If anything, I spend too much time with patients. I also spend far too much time on demeaning tasks that do not require a medical degree. I am burned out. My income is so low (because I spend so much time with patients and therefore see fewer) that I am in debt. It is disgraceful and disgusting that doctors who save lives (and who bear that responsibility) are treated the way we are today.”
Of the 49% of physicians who told surveyors they would stop practice altogether or reduce their patient loads over the next 3 years, 11% said they plan to retire in the next 3 years, 13% said they plan to seek a job in a nonclinical health care setting, 20% said they would cut back on patients seen, and 10% said they would work part-time.
“Declining reimbursement” rated highest on the list of issues physicians identified as impediments to the delivery of patient care in their practices, followed by “demands on physician time.”