A global pandemic is creating two extremes for many doctors!

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“A global pandemic is creating two extremes for many doctors—either they are swamped with COVID-related patients in a hot spot or are struggling financially because patients are afraid to come in for appointments. The pandemic fallout is exacerbating a growing burnout problem in the profession, and doctors have become the targets of politicians looking to shift blame.” (MedicalEconomics.com)


According to recent studies, healthcare practitioners are showing high rates of PTSD, anxiety, insomnia, and depression. These are brought on by being adjacent to death and suffering in unprecedented rates as well as losing colleagues and family members. (Urooj et al. 2020) 1

However, while it may seem that the pandemic created this crisis, it has only in fact exacerbated previous trends. Physician burnout has been steadily increasing over the past decades in addition to an increase in the cost of practicing medicine, higher insurance costs, higher litigation rates, increased patient volume, poorer payer contracts, more elaborate insurance protocols to contend with, and a host of other problems.

 

The most pertinent problems facing physicians today include:

An inability to hire quality staff due to the nursing and medical staff shortage related to an increased prevalence of illness as well as an aging population. Smaller practices are also unable to match the contracts of larger practices and often lose out on experienced and competent staff.

With the widespread transition to tele-health, payer contracts are being re-negotiated and physicians are receiving a lesser compensation for treatment under newer agreements. (https://www.amerisourcebergen.com/insights/physician-practices/healthcare-payer-trends-in-2021)

One half of all physicians will face a medical malpractice lawsuit in their careers. (https://www.medicaleconomics.com/view/top-challenges-number-6-avoiding-lawsuit)

42% of physicians reported burn-out in 2020. (https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/hospital-physician-relationships/5-stats-on-physician-burnout-in-2020.html#:~:text=Forty%2Dtwo%20percent%20of%20physicians,30%20to%20Nov.)

Increased competition among practices due to non-localized insurance networks expanding options. There is an increased perception that patients are demanding the same conveniences from their doctors that they would at restaurants or stores. There are now more urgent care and retail clinics available than ever before and the patient demands are greater than ever before.

An increase in denials and a lower reimbursement rate in most major insurance networks due to ever increasing complexity of documentation and coding.

Physician suicide is topic of growing professional and public health concern. Despite working to improve the health of others, physicians often sacrifice their own well-being to do so. Furthermore, there are systemic barriers in place that discourage self-care and help-seeking behaviors among physicians. This article will discuss the relevant epidemiology, risk factors, and barriers to treatment, then explore solutions to address this alarming trend.” (Kalmoe et al. 2019)2

“Physicians have higher rates of burnout, depressive symptoms, and suicide risk than the general population. Physicians and trainees can experience high degrees of mental health distress and are less likely than other members of the public to seek mental health treatment. Physicians report several barriers to seeking mental health care, including time constraints, hesitancy to draw attention to self-perceived weakness, and concerns about reputation and confidentiality.” (https://www.datocms-assets.com/12810/1578319045-physician-mental-health-suicide-one-pager.pdf)

[1]          Expectations, Fears and Perceptions of doctors during Covid-19 Pandemic

Uzma Urooj,1 Asma Ansari,2 Asifa Siraj,3 Sumaira Khan,4 and Humaira Tariq5

Pak J Med Sci. 2020 May; 36(COVID19-S4): S37–S42.

 

[2]        Physician Suicide: A Call to Action

Molly C. Kalmoe, MD, Matthew B. Chapman, MD, Jessica A. Gold, MD, and Andrea M. Giedinghagen, MDcorresponding author

Mo Med. 2019 May-Jun; 116(3): 211–216.

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