Physician Misery and The Joy of Medicine Challenge

April 22, 2015
Patricia Salber, MD, MBA


Founder and Host, The Doctor Weighs In

The Joy of Medicine Challenge is an online competition that asks for physicians to submit their ideas about how to bring back the passion for medicine

I had a chance to connect with the folks at Geneia, a population health technology company, at the recent HIMSS 2015 conference in Chicago. They told me about a nationwide survey of 400 doctors that they commissioned earlier this year to look at physician satisfaction. Although we all know docs are pretty frustrated right now, the results of this small survey were pretty depressing.  In fact, they correctly labeled the findings “The Geneia Physician Misery Index.”

Here are some of the key findings:

  • 67% of respondents know a physician who is likely to stop practicing medicine in the next five years, as the result of physician burnout. This includes both younger and more experienced doctors.
  • 51% say they have considered career options outside of clinical practice.
  • Among doctors who have been practicing medicine for less than 10 years, 62% admit they are looking at other career paths.
  • 78% of doctors say they frequently feel rushed when seeing patients and 88% say spending time developing an authentic engagement with each patient is increasingly hard to actualize.
  • 84% say that the amount of quality time that doctors are able to spend with patients has decreased in the last 10 years (only 2% said it had increased)
  • 87% agree that the “business and regulation of healthcare” has changed the practice of medicine for the worse.

Overall, the nationwide Physician Misery Index is 3.7 out of 5, indicating that scales have tipped from away from satisfaction toward dissatisfaction with the profession.

Barriers to Joy in Medicine

In addition to answering structured questions, the physicians were asked an open-ended question about what prevents them from experiencing the ‘joy of medicine.’ There were 416 comments.  Only 14 said that they are still experiencing joy in medicine; the rest – 402 physicians – said they are not. The most often cited obstacle was the business of medicine and the resulting recordkeeping and patient quotas.

Here are some of the comments in the docs’ own words:

  • “The joy is simply interacting with people and using your knowledge to help them. It’s ALL the outside issues and influences that lessen this joy.”
  • “With so much time needed for documentation and coding, and the need to see many patients in a small time period, there is not much time to actually enjoy treating a patient’s condition and watching them improve over time.”
  • “I feel like I work on an assembly line.”
  • “I’ve been very burned out for the past 2 years.  I am leaving medicine at the end of March because I no longer enjoy my practice.”
  • “Medicine today is about data entry, EHR, and tracking. Less and less time is spent meeting patient’s needs.”
  • “I always feel behind, stressed and overworked.”
  • “Record keeping has added 10 hours per week to my work week without any benefit to patient care or reimbursement.”

Interestingly, these findings are not that different from the ones I reported on in my recent post on the Medscape Physician Compensation Survey, “How Much Money Do Docs Make?”  That survey not only asked about compensation, but also about satisfaction with the practice of medicine. Even physicians at the top of the income rankings indicated dissatisfaction with the profession.  They also said they don’t have much time with patients and they are spending a lot of time on paperwork.

The Joy of Medicine Challenge

There’s no doubt that we need to do more to address physician satisfaction, so it was really fun to learn that Geneia is sponsoring a Joy of Medicine Challenge.  This is an online competition that asks for physicians to submit their ideas – any ideas – about how to bring back the passion for medicine. The competition is exclusively for physicians and is being judged by physicians.

The three best ideas will win $1,000 in cash, and after a live pitch off at MATTER in Chicago on June 8th.  One of the three will be awarded $5,000 in consulting resources to refine and develop their idea.  Physician ideas are being accepted through May 6th at https://medstro.com/groups/joy.

I hope you will visit the challenge site and view the entries.  If you are a physician, you can comment on them and participate in the peer-sourced voting. So far, responses to the Challenge have included:

  • Projecting the electronic health record (EHR) during a patient visit,
  • Establishing a pool of physician leaders to advocate for physician- and patient-focused changes to healthcare, and
  • Introducing automated ‘wallet cards’ that include all pertinent patient information and would be updated each time a patient visits their physician – an idea that has generated the most physician votes and comments.

I am sure there are a ton of good ideas out there just waiting for an opportunity like this.  I look forward to seeing what bubbles up in this contest.

Survey Methodology

Geneia commissioned Quest Opinions to conduct a nationwide survey among physicians who practice medicine full time. Interviewing was conducted online from January 15 to 20, 2015 among 416 physicians who have been practicing post-residency medicine for more than four years. The results have a margin of error of ±4.9 percentage points at the 95% level of confidence.


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