Do no harm... but lots of paperwork

By Denis Storey


Anyone else notice how we never seem to talk about the doctors?

The uninsured, certainly, take up most of the chatter when we discuss health care reform. They stand to reap the most from the legislation — at least in the short term.

We also talk about the carriers a lot, who’re left holding a mixed bag with a larger risk pool, sure, but they almost certainly face a costly uptick in utilization rates.

The eager regulators, of course, get plenty of attention since they seem to be talking about some new phase of implementation every week.

And, brokers, whose futures are the cloudiest, and whose fates remain the most closely tied to our own. We talk about them every day.

But we rarely discuss the medical professionals themselves. You know, the ones who’re actually providing our health care? Well, we might want to start thinking about them a little bit more, or at least giving them some love, because they’re disappearing faster than daily newspapers.

A new survey of the sawbones themselves shows things could get a lot worse. “A Survey of America’s Physicians: Practice Patterns and Perspectives,” conducted by the nonprofit The Physicians Foundation, is the largest study of its kind, polling more than 13,000 doctors across the country.

I mean, I know it’s only American to be down on your job, but hearing that 84 percent of doctors say their profession is in decline is a sobering statement on an epidemic-scale morale problem. Nearly 58 percent of them wouldn’t counsel their kids to follow them into the profession and more than a third of them would pursue a different line of work entirely if they could hit the reset button on their careers. And here I thought journalists were the only ones who felt that way.

But the worst part is the looming provider drought we’re facing – and that no one is talking about. To wit:
  • Doctors are cutting back the number of patients they see every day by nearly 20 percent.
  • Nearly a quarter of their time is spend on paperwork already.
  • More than half of them have cut access to Medicare patients while more than a quarter of them have closed their doors to the Medicaid crowd entirely.
And, finally, more than half of the doctors surveyed plan cut back even more.

We go back and forth of so many aspects of health care in this country and we always seem to overlook those on the front lines. And we do so at our own peril.

Originally published on