By Jennifer Larson, contributor Oct 18, 2021
stressed? Overburdened by administrative requirements? Worn out by COVID-19? Or
simply wishing you had more time to spend with your patients?
physicians are juggling a number of obstacles and challenges, despite their
devotion to the practice of medicine and the health of their patients. Plus, COVID-19
has upended the entire healthcare community, starting in early 2020. You may be
grappling with a whole host of pandemic-related issues on top of the “ordinary
challenges” of your chosen career.
overview of some top challenges facing physicians in today’s healthcare
9 Common Physician Challenges
1. Less time
Are there any
physicians who are truly satisfied with the amount of time they have to spend
with all their patients? Electronic documentation and other administrative
burdens continue to cut in on the time physicians actually spend with patients.
a 2016 study in the Annals
of Internal Medicine, physicians spent just 27 percent of an average
day or shift with patients, while nearly 50 percent of their day was spent on
electronic health records and other “desk work.” This imbalance can wear on physicians
who desire to spend more time in direct patient care.
may involve streamlining work processes, sharing some responsibilities with advanced
practice providers and other staff, changing your work environment, or finding
ways to make every minute with patients count.
to deal with a mountain of administrative burdens and paperwork on a regular
basis. They have to report a steady stream of data and information to the
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for reimbursement. The data
reporting duties required by Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act,
or MACRA, may never be very far from their minds.
recent efforts by CMS to streamline the reporting process, “it’s a headache and
will only be more so over time,” said Fred Bentley, managing director for the Center
for Healthcare Transformation with the healthcare consulting firm Avalere
and independent practices may be worried about funding issues. “A big challenge
is depending almost entirely on a third party for reimbursement,” said
Alejandro Badia, MD, who cofounded the orthopedic care clinic OrthoNOW in
Florida and serves as chief medical officer. “The irony is that the onus of the
increasing expenses is completely on the physician with those third parties, or
the government not helping fund that.”
physician practices are required to use certain kinds of technology, such as
the electronic health record, but they have to come up with the money to fund
it, said Badia. These types of challenges are driving more physicians to
consider employment options vs. running their own practice.
number of independent practices have been swallowed up by hospitals and
healthcare systems in recent years, with the trend accelerating even faster
among rural hospitals than urban hospitals, according to a 2016 report from
Avalare and the Physicians Advocacy Institute (PAI). And a 2020
benchmark survey from the American Medical Association reported that only
about 49 percent of physicians were working in physician-owned practices in
2020, down from 54 percent in 2018.
present staffing challenges to the practices that remain independent.
qualified nurses and administrative staff and keeping them is that much more
challenging,” said Bentley. “It’s really tough. The smaller your practice, the
harder your ability to remain competitive with salaries.” And while staffing is
an ongoing challenge, the nurse staffing crunch has accelerated in recent months
during the pandemic.
shortages are the problem, both small practices and large health systems often
turn to locum tenens physicians to
alleviate temporary vacancies. Agencies like Staff Care can offer short-term
solutions for employers, and a welcome alternative for physician jobseekers.
must confront a number of ethical challenges on the job, as they deal with
life-and-death situations amid priorities that can pull them in different
how do you balance patient need with their ability to pay, or make decisions
about expensive end-of-life care that only delays the inevitable? The pandemic
created new ethical dilemmas that put stress on physicians, as some working in
areas overwhelmed with COVID patients found themselves having to confront the
possibility of rationing care.
Medical Association Code of Medical Ethics provides guidelines and
building blocks for ethical practice, but each physician is responsible for
doing their best within the circumstances. It can make for some very tough
decisions on a daily basis.
continues to be one of the biggest challenges facing doctors today. It’s not a
new problem, as more than half of the physicians in a 2018 Medscape survey exhibited
some signs of burnout. And a NEJM Catalyst survey on
physician burnout and resilience found that 83 percent of clinicians
and healthcare leaders believe physician burnout is a “serious” or “moderate”
problem in their organizations.
“By and large,
physicians are satisfied with the work they do, but they’re highly stressed,
and stress is a predictor for or an antecedent to burnout,” said Elizabeth
Goelz, MD, associate director, Institute for Professional Worklife; chief wellness
officer for the medical staff, Hennepin Healthcare in Minneapolis.
challenges they face can all contribute to an increased risk for physician burnout.
“All those pressures come together,” Goelz said.
repercussions can be dire—from doctors leaving the profession to entering a
downward spiral in their physical and mental health.
The problem has
also worsened since the pandemic began. A survey
released in August 2021 from the Physicians Foundation found that 61 percent of
physicians reported feeling burned out often. And 57 percent reported feeling
“inappropriate feelings of anger, tearfulness or anxiety because of COVID-19.”
fallout from the pandemic
Group Management Association (MGMA) reported
in April 2020 that almost all physician practices took a significant hit in
terms of decreased patient volumes and decreased revenues as a result of the
pandemic. In fact, at that time, 97 percent of practices reported experiencing
some type of negative impact from the pandemic. Many practices are still
recovering from that financial hit or struggling to get back on track.
supply chain issues
personal protective equipment (PPE) was in short supply. And some items, such
as nitrile gloves and sterilization wrap may still prove more challenging to
source at times. Although the overall situation has improved, some rural
communities may still run into occasional
problems sourcing all the equipment that they need, as the American
Hospital Association noted earlier this year. Reuters also recently reported that healthcare
organizations are experiencing delays in sourcing items such as exam tables, defibrillators
and IV poles.
9. A growing
emphasis on telemedicine
opportunities for telemedicine means more opportunities for physicians to see
patients. That’s not the challenging part. Emergency measures were enacted
during the pandemic to temporarily open up the opportunity for physicians to
provide care to patients via telehealth—the key word being “temporary.”
permanent extensions, physicians would be unable to get reimbursement for
providing care via telehealth, if they were even allowed to offer it. That
might present a dilemma to some practices. However, many
telehealth advocates are asking the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid
Services to amend the proposed 2022 Physician Fee Schedule to permanently
extend coverage for telehealth.
opportunities and physician-driven solutions
The ongoing shortage of
physicians is predicted to stretch into the future, providing job
security and expansive opportunities for those in the field.
strong demand for your services, and it’s only going to get stronger,” said
Plus, there is
a much greater awareness of the prevalence of physician burnout and its serious
repercussions, and a growing body of research focused on measuring and
addressing it, noted Goelz. Individuals and organizations are aware of the
problem, and its costs, which is progress.
certainly more work to be done," she continued. "But it's moving in
the right direction."
also becoming better self-advocates for their own health and well-being, and
less accepting of the status quo. Whether asking for assistance, opting for a
change in schedule, or changing jobs entirely, they know that ultimately they
have the power to make positive changes.
5 Ways Part-time Physician Jobs
Could Work for You
Need Career Flexibility? 7 Reasons to Go
STAFF CARE can help you find your ideal practice setting across the U.S., including part-time or full-time opportunities. CONTACT our professional recruiters to get started.
Search Locum Tenens Jobs