Major Physician Survey Confirms Alarming Trends

The Physicians Foundation recently released the results of one of the largest physician surveys ever undertaken in the United States to provide doctors with a clear snapshot of the most pressing issues facing the medical profession and our nation regarding the delivery of healthcare. The survey examines physician morale, practice patterns, patient accessibility, and career plans. The Physicians Foundation, which is a nonprofit organization that seeks to advance the work of practicing physicians and help facilitate the delivery of health care to patients, surveyed 13,575 physicians throughout the country including many of our members here in North Carolina. 

Perhaps the most striking finding is that American patients are likely to experience significant and increasing challenges in accessing care if current physician practice patterns trends continue. Physicians are working fewer hours, seeing fewer patients, and limiting access to their practices in light of significant changes to the medical practice environment, according to the research, titled “A Survey of America’s Physicians: Practice Patterns and Perspectives.” The research estimates that if these patterns continue, 44,250 full-time-equivalent (FTE) physicians will be lost from the workforce in the next four years. The survey also found that over the next one to three years, more than 50 percent of physicians will cut back on patients seen, work part-time, switch to concierge medicine, retire, or take other steps likely to reduce patient access. In addition, should 100,000 physicians transition from practice-owner to employed status over the next four years (such as working in a hospital setting); the survey indicates that this will lead to 91 million fewer patient encounters.

“These are alarming trends, but give us a clearer perspective on the access crisis that patients may soon be facing,” said Robert Seligson, CEO of the North Carolina Medical Society and Treasurer on the Board of Directors for The Physicians Foundation.  “This survey highlights the pressing need for doctors to regain control of their professional destiny by coming together to help drive the changes coming to our healthcare system.”

Read more about The Physician Foundation survey results.


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  • Unfortunately, I concur. I seriously investigated a career change but realized I still like “medicine” for the opportunity to try to help people. Medicine is a great profession but a horrible business. The third parties that control medicine are too far removed from how those decisions adversely impact the doctor patient interaction. Each year our system moves further towards medical business in opposition to medical care. We need to prioritize the goal of making our society healthier; and then subsequently use methods that accomplish the goal in a financially responsible fashion. The goal of health is not even on the spreadsheet right now.

  • Rhonda Davis

    I find a considerable amount of my time is now spent in unfunded mandates. I am required to enter diagnosis codes and CPT codes for the purpose of data mining which do not add to patient care. E.g. codes documenting the pt’s BMI range, codes for well care documenting the need for a vaccine. (Shouldn’t the CPT code alone for screening tests with a well care diagnosis be enough without separate well care diagnoses of ‘screening for cervical cancer, screening for colon cancer, screening for breast cancer, needs Tdap vaccine, needs Flu vaccine, menopause, etc. ). Really!

  • Ben Hooker

    This trend is disheartening and does not bode well, especially for a system that is attempting to reform and extend access to many who have been left out in the past. What may be more disheartening is the realization is that my role is better described as that of a provider of medical services for the acutely ill, not as one who manages and promotes true, holistic health in striving not just for the absence of illness but for the presence of good health. All the recent reform talk has simply been talk of payment reform and insurance reform. Our system is not set up to promote health, otherwise entire communities and populations would be the most important patients. Real health care reform would wield policy as an effective tool and eliminate the stranglehold insurance companies have on how people access services. Real reform would also place development of public health initiatives above that of any new pharmaceutical or tenchinque. Here in the US, we do not have a health care system. Instead we do have a business model for the profitable delivery of medical services in such a manner that allows insurance executives to get rich and leaves many out in the cold. This realization has been very difficult. I have watched the ideals and dreams I brought to my first days of medical school die and be replaced by frustration and stress. I am lost in a career that is not what I believed it to be.