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Dr. Downer: Physicians pessimistic about career outlook


Finding another doctor to fill a vacancy in your practice won’t be easy. Nine out of 10 doctors wouldn’t recommend that a job seeker pursue a career in healthcare, according to results of a survey of medical malpractice liability insurance customers.

Malpractice liability insurer The Doctors Company surveyed 5,000 physician clients, nearly one-third in primary care. Nearly half of respondents indicated that they are contemplating retiring over the next 5 years due to changes in the healthcare system, although most doctors younger than 50 years old intend to practice longer.

Other results:

  • 65% of respondents said healthcare reform will not reduce defensive medicine.

  • 60% of respondents indicated that the pressures to increase patient volume would negatively affect the level of care they can provide.

  • 51% of respondents said their ability to grow and maintain patient relationships will be adversely affected by a larger patient volume.

  • 39% indicated they do not plan to participate in a Patient-Centered Medical Home.

  • 57% of doctors are either undecided or need more information regarding accountable care organization participation.

“The physician sentiments expressed in the [survey] are deeply concerning and disheartening,” said Donald J. Palmisano, MD, JD, FACS, former president of the American Medical Association and member of The Doctors Company Board of Governors. “Unfortunately, we may be facing a shift from a ‘calling,’ which has been the hallmark for generations among physicians, that could threaten the next generation of healthcare professionals.”

In a related study, more than nine out of 10 medical students and residents say that medical malpractice liability fears caused them to order additional tests, procedures, or other care during training, according to an article published in the February issue of Academic Medicine. More than three out of 10 students and four out of 10 residents reported they avoided higher-risk patients or care because of malpractice concerns.

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