Survey finds pay doesn't make doctors happy

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Survey finds pay doesn't make doctors happy
Survey finds pay doesn't make doctors happy

Digging deeper into doctor's inner dialogues, Medscape polled just over 24,000 physicians across 25 disciplines to get a better sense of how they feel about their role in the healthcare field, if they feel they are appropriately compensated, and what their daily routine looks like.

Unsurprisingly, the day-to-day questions had the most straightforward answers: they see a lot of patients and spend little time—maybe 16 minutes—with each one.

The “happiness” answers require more questions to better flesh them out, but the overall takeaway can be summed up as “yes, but” or “yes, depending on the question.”

In short, 46% of polled doctors said they spend 40 hours a week seeing patients, and 51% said they spend more than that (the others don't see patients), a pattern Medscape notes is in line with recent trends/ It also cites a JAMA study that found time spent with patients declined from 54.6 hours a week in 1997 to 51 hours by 2007.

About 50% of the surveyed Primary Care Physicians said they spent around 16 minutes with each patient, while 48% said “more than 17 minutes,” whereas last year 55% said they spent 16 minutes at most, and 42% pushed past the 17-mark. Medscape framed this as “patients may be getting slightly more attention from their PCPs,” and an IMS Health survey indicates why: PCP visits fell last year among adults for the fourth year in a row.

As for what doctors talk about during these sessions, 72% said they “regularly or occasionally discuss the cost of treatment with patients,” and while 21% said they did think they should talk to patients about health insurance exchanges, 41% of polled physicians felt they should be prepared to talk health insurance, even though they did not feel obligated to bring it up.

As for how doctors feel about their professional lives, Medscape found that satisfaction does not follow compensation. Researchers noted, for example, that although orthopedists are the highest paid physicians ($413,000 per year, besting cardiologists who reported $351,000 last year) only 46% felt they were fairly compensated. This is in contrast with dermatologists—the 8th highest earners—the majority of whom (68%) said they felt they were fairly paid. Derms also surfaced as the happiest physicians in Medscape's earlier lifestyle report.

Despite falling near the bottom of the earnings pyramid, 68% of  polled internists said would still choose medicine if given a do-over, though 27% think they would choose a different specialty. Family Medicine and HIV/Immunodeficiency doctors—the bottom two pay levels—tied, with 67% of each group saying they would re-up for medicine. This is in contrast with the otherwise happy dermatologists, 55% of whom said they would choose medicine again.

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