Wednesday, April 27, 2016

From the Houston Chronicle: Health care system punishes most important doctors

For our look at health care policy in the state.

- Click here for the post.

Torres' job is to keep her patients as healthy as possible, the most important job in American health care. But her industry treats primary care physicians so badly that their numbers are shrinking, and there are consequences for all of us if conditions don't improve.
Stress, bureaucracy and case load have left 64 percent of doctors with a negative view of their industry, according to a survey commissioned by the Physician's Foundation, an advocacy group for doctors. Less than 20 percent of physicians say they can accommodate more patients.
Primary care physicians are particularly unhappy, facing the heaviest paperwork burden and the lowest pay. Forty-four percent of doctors say they plan to retire early, cut back on patients or seek a job that doesn't involve patients.
"We're at the bottom of the payment totem pole, for sure," Torres said. "The amount of work we have to do is far greater than the specialist. We have to do a lot of tedious work."
Torres calculates she works about 70 hours a week, which is typical, according to the survey. More than 80 percent of Texas physicians work more than 40 hours a week, with some averaging 80 hours or more.
Torres is also one of the shrinking number of doctors who operate as small businesses. Only 29 percent of Texas doctors still own their practice, and nationwide the number has dropped to 17 percent as physicians join large partnerships or work as employees of hospitals where patients are too often seen as statistics.
"The key word right now is efficiency. But do you want someone who is going to listen to you and take care of you, or do you want someone who will be efficient?" she said when asked why she doesn't work for someone else. "I may not be doing financially the best that I can do, but I am able to pay my bills, I'm happy with how I take care of the patients, and that to me is the important part."

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