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Work-life balance among biggest challenges facing primary care doctors


Lower reimbursements and maintaining a healthy balance between their work and personal lives are the top challenges facing primary care physicians (PCPs) today, according to a recent survey.

At 44% each, those two factors were the most frequently cited challenges by 1,066 PCPs in a survey by mobile health company Epocrates.

Other top challenges PCPs cited in the survey were uncertainty about government regulation (43%), lack of adequate time with patients (41%), and the increasing cost of practicing medicine (39%), according to Epocrates.

It's not a surprise that PCPs report struggles with maintaining work-life balance, as various other studies and surveys have shown. For example, a study last year by researchers from the Mayo Clinic found that PCPs are among the types of doctors most at-risk for burnout.

Physician burnout was a topic of focus at last year's American Academy of Family Physicians’ annual meeting in Philadelphia, with experts noting that the most difficult part about burnout for physicians is often admitting to themselves that things in their lives or practices aren't going well.

"We have the ability to either react to life … or to thoughtfully respond. There’s a huge difference and, unfortunately, for many of us, we react instead of responding. Reacting takes on a negative charge,” said one speaker during a presentation at the meeting. “A lot of burnout is about negative emotional energy.”

In the Epocrates survey, 89% of PCPs said their stress levels have grown over the years, with 46% characterizing the growth in stress as significant.

The PCP shortage, which could add to existing PCPs' stress, was cited as the top concern among survey respondents.

Other data points of note from the survey include the finding that a fourth of PCPs use a tablet in their practices, with Apple's iPad the overwhelming choice at 79% of tablet users. Twenty-two percent of those doctors said they plan to purchase an iPad mini.

A fourth of PCPs report prescribing a mobile app to a patient at least once a week, with most of those apps falling into the categories of patient education and lifestyle change tools.

More than three-fourths of PCPs surveyed said the phone was their primary communications tool with patients, followed by patient portals at 10% and direct mail at 9%.