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Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013

This Week's News

Quality of patient care primary driver of physician satisfaction: Study

Quality of patient care primary driver of physician satisfaction: Study

A study released Wednesday by the RAND Corporation has found that being able to provide high-quality care to their patients is the primary reason for job satisfaction among physicians, while obstacles to doing so are a key source of stress in the profession.

Sponsored by the AMA, the study is designed to identify the factors that influence physicians' professional satisfaction, an issue of increasing importance as health reform and other forces are altering contemporary delivery and payment models. It is the first step in the AMA's strategic initiative to enhance practice sustainability and professional satisfaction through effective care delivery and payment models.

The findings suggest that monitoring the factors contributing to physician dissatisfaction offer tangible early warning signs of deeper quality problems developing in the health care system.

"Overcoming modern medicine's greatest obstacles to first-rate medical care can simultaneously enhance the quality of care and improve professional satisfaction among physicians," AMA President Ardis Dee Hoven, MD, said in a news release. "The AMA is committed to leading a national dialog regarding the major factors driving many physicians to feel increasingly disconnected from what really matters—their patients."

Among the most common contributors to professional dissatisfaction were the challenges posed by today's cumbersome electronic health records (EHR) systems. The physicians surveyed for the study expressed concern that current technology interferes with face-to-face discussions with patients, requires physicians to spend too much time on clerical work and degrades the accuracy of medical records by encouraging template-generated notes.

Meanwhile, physicians reported that the systems have been more costly than anticipated and do not provide the technology needed to interact with other systems to properly transmit patient medical information when it is needed.

"Physicians believe in the benefits of EHRs and do not want to go back to paper charts," said Mark Friedberg, MD, the study's lead author and a natural scientist at RAND. "But at the same time, they … are frustrated by systems that force them to do clerical work or distract them from paying close attention to their patients."

Other drivers of dissatisfaction included excessive productivity quotas and limitations on the time spent with each patient, as well as the cumulative burden of rules and regulations that has drained time and resources away from patient care.

Sources of satisfaction included practice environments that allowed more autonomy in structuring clinical activities and more control over the pace and content of patient care. Doctors also were more likely to report satisfaction if they were in physician-owned practices or partnerships rather than practices owned by hospitals or corporations.

Read more about how the AMA will be using this data to promote practice sustainability and professional satisfaction in a blog post by Dr. Hoven.