The evidence is cumulating that doctors are pretty unhappy. The latest is a survey from Locumstory, which arranges for temporary physician assignments. The company asked 1000 doctors across specialties and practice types about their feelings and attitudes toward their work. (locumstory survey) Across all practice types, 65% of physicians feel more overworked now than when they started their careers, only 13% say they are less overworked, with the rest saying it is about the same. 39% of doctors don’t believe their employer or work situation supports a good work/rest of life balance, with 35% of private practice doctors saying so, 41% of hospital-based ones and 39% of those in group practices. The lack of balance is likely attributable to a decline in free time. Consistent with the overwork, response, 64% of physicians say they have less free time now then when they started working. About 55% of doctors said they had thought about leaving medicine in the last few years, 68% because of time spent with EHRs, 62% because of overwork and 59% due to paperwork demands.
One major factor in the overwork perception is greater time devoted to administrative chores–22% of respondents say they spent more than an hour a day on paperwork. The flip side is that most physicians, 58%, say they are spending less time with patients now. 59% say they would like more time for in-person interactions and communication with patients. Many doctors apparently don’t see large benefits for technological communication; 62% don’t want to text with patients and 53% believe digital communications detract from patient care. This may be appropriate, given the complexity of medical conversations and the importance of picking up visual clues about the patient’s health and emotional state, as well as providing empathy. Harder to do that via electronics, even video technology. Notwithstanding physicians hesitancy toward electronic communications, most employers now give patients the capability of such interaction. Many physicians, 41%, have taken second jobs to supplement income, often to pay off debt. You just have to wonder, if all these surveys accurately reflect physician attitudes, does it affect the quality of the care they deliver.