“I’d rather play a doctor on TV”

Good stuff from Dr. Val over at Better Health with her regularly featured medical cartoon.

It’s also somewhat sobering, as I’m sure the thought has crossed the mind of more than a few doctors.

Id rather play a doctor on TV

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  • David Block MD, PhD

    Here is only one of many citations to back up your thoughts:
    http://www.cnn.com/2008/HEALTH/11/17/primary.care.doctors.study/

    “(CNN) — Nearly half the respondents in a survey of U.S. primary care physicians said that they would seriously consider getting out of the medical business within the next three years if they had an alternative.

    Experts say if many physicians stop practicing, it could be devastating to the health care industry.

    The survey, released this week by the Physicians’ Foundation, which promotes better doctor-patient relationships, sought to find the reasons for an identified exodus among family doctors and internists, widely known as the backbone of the health industry.

    A U.S. shortage of 35,000 to 40,000 primary care physicians by 2025 was predicted at last week’s American Medical Association annual meeting.

    In the survey, the foundation sent questionnaires to more than 270,000 primary care doctors and more than 50,000 specialists nationwide.

    Of the 12,000 respondents, 49 percent said they’d consider leaving medicine. Many said they are overwhelmed with their practices, not because they have too many patients, but because there’s too much red tape generated from insurance companies and government agencies.

    And if that many physicians stopped practicing, that could be devastating to the health care industry.”

    Other studies show that perhaps one-half of physicians in their 50′s are leaving or significantly curtailing practice within another 3-5 years. These are the same physicians who otherwise would be trying to max out their various pension plans over 10 years or so by seeing the bulk of patients, allowing younger colleagues to grow into the practice. And this exodus will leave a tremendous risk in morbidity and mortality, for these same physicians, presumably, are the ones with the experience to handle the complex problems of an aging population more efficiently, with judgment and aplomb.

    Are physicians the ones who are planning how to relieve this terrible patient care deficit? Are we the ones coming up with new approaches to resource management? (We cringe at these words bandied about so offhandedly at HHS). Or are we somebody else’s resource to manage? Are we a just a variable glinting in the mind’s eye of a management scientist looking for a dissertation topic?

    This is NOT about a career change to “play a doctor on TV.” This is about playing doctor in Nashua, NH, and – because you chose to do that instead of going to law school, or whatever else – being able to send your kid to Dartmouth when she aces her SATs. Behind “the problem of health care in America” is a person who is a doctor, and that person, as an American, has all the rights and privileges thereunto appertaining.

    Doctor, we solve the problem together with other stakeholders, and we recreate medical care so that doctors are not “providers” but legitimate shareholders in each community of individuals, or… well… hear that giant sucking sound?

    David Block MD

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