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AMA: Physicians Love Their Jobs Despite EHR, Financial Woes

EHR dissatisfaction and regulatory burdens can't diminish the satisfaction of being a physician, says the AMA in a new survey.

The AMA says EHR and financial woes don't dimiish job satisfaction for physicians

Source: Thinkstock

By Jennifer Bresnick

- Physician dissatisfaction might not be quite as rampant as EHR naysayers are apt to believe, according to new survey results from the American Medical Association. 

Despite the challenges brought on by regulatory and reimbursement changes, EHR use, a deluge of big data, and a growing emphasis on value-based care, approximately 90 percent of physicians are satisfied with their choice of career path.

Altruism and a deep sense of community obligation are strong motivators for physicians, the poll found, with three-quarters of medical students, residents, and physicians citing the chance to help people as their top motivation for pursuing a career in medicine.

Just under three-quarters of the 1200 respondents said they had an MD in their sights before they turned 20.  Nearly a third stated that becoming a physician fulfilled a dream that started in childhood.   

That doesn’t mean that physicians are free of frustrations, however.  The survey did point out that administrative burdens, stress, and the constant struggle for time to care for patients are among physicians’ top challenges.

“Physicians may be discouraged at times, but almost every single one of us remains confident in our decision to enter medicine and continues to be driven by our desire to help our patients,” said Andrew W. Gurman, MD, AMA President.

The new survey casts the clinical calling in a positive light, but it contrasts somewhat sharply with other industry research that paints a picture of a profession under threat from many angles.

A Physicians Foundation survey in 2016 found that close to half of physicians are planning to scale back their hours, retire, or move into non-clinical positions in order to lessen the impact of burnout. 

In that survey, a third of participants regretted their choice to become a physician.  Half would recommend a different field for their children.

In contrast, 61 percent of AMA survey respondents said they would urge acquaintances to become doctors.

The new data also clashes with the AMA’s ongoing narrative about bringing the joy back to a profession that is being crushed by inefficient technologies, shrinking reimbursements, and mounting regulatory requirements.

AMA research from 2015 pointed out that medical students experience depression rates that are between 15 and 30 percent higher than the general population. 

Suicide takes the lives of between 300 and 400 physicians each year – significantly higher than in other groups – and many members of the medical profession are slower to seek help and more likely to self-medicate than other individuals.

While a number of different pressures contribute to serious mental health concerns in medical professionals, electronic health records and complex regulatory burdens do not help improve satisfaction on the job.

In 2015, the AMA and AmericanEHR Partners found that EHR satisfaction among physicians had dipped down to 34 percent, and the AMA is famously on record for calling EHRs a “source of stress” for physicians in 2014. 

“EHR usability represents a unique and vexing challenge to physician professional satisfaction,” said the AMA report, produced in conjunction with RAND Corporation.  “Few other service industries are exposed to universal and substantial incentives to adopt such a specific, highly regulated form of technology, one that our findings suggest has not yet matured.”

Restoring the “joy of medicine” became a rallying cry for the AMA in 2015, as the society pledged to take a firm stand against the red tape, health IT concerns, and regulatory burdens that steal precious hours away from the patient-provider relationship.

The latest survey comes in advance of a new push to reenergize physicians.  A new print, digital, and social media campaign will “demonstrate to physicians, residents and medical students the many ways the AMA listens, supports and empowers them to succeed throughout their unique journeys with timely and relevant resources,” says the press release. 

The AMA will provide a number of different resources to highlight the importance of the society’s advocacy efforts and industry clout.

“As an organization, the AMA is constantly striving to deliver resources that empower physicians to maximize time with their patients and help them succeed at every stage of their medical lives,” Gurman added. “Understanding the challenges physicians face, as well as their motivations for continuing on, is critical to fulfilling that mission.”

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