Survey reveals most physicians unwilling to recommend health care as a profession

The Doctors Company, the official provider of medical liability insurance for the American College of Surgeons, recently announced the results of the largest physician survey conducted to date on the future of health care in the U.S. More than 5,000 physician members of The Doctors Company responded to the independent survey, which indicated that concerns surrounding a shortage of health care professionals may be exacerbated by current physician sentiment toward the profession.

Specifically, nine out of 10 respondents indicate an unwillingness to recommend health care as a profession. In addition, 43 percent of respondents indicate that they are contemplating retiring within the next five years as a result of transformative changes occurring within the U.S. health care system. A copy of the Future of Health Care Survey is available on The Doctors Company Knowledge Center.

“The physician sentiments expressed in the Future of Health Care Survey are deeply concerning and disheartening,” said Donald J. Palmisano, MD, JD, FACS, a member of The Doctors Company board of governors. “For years, the medical profession has been predicting a shortage of health care professionals. Today, we are perilously close to a true crisis as newly insured Americans enter the health care system and our population continues to age. 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 health care professionals.”

Nearly 32 million newly insured individuals will enter America’s health care system by 2016,* increasing demands on America’s health care professionals.† An anticipated shortage of primary care physicians and nurses will necessarily increase the number of patients treated per physician, adversely affecting patient outcomes. A total of 65 percent of respondents believe the current legislative initiatives designed to reduce health care expenses are insufficient for addressing the underlying causes of costly defensive medicine.

Furthermore, the physicians surveyed expressed concern that the increase in patient volume will limit the attention to each patient, with 60 percent of respondents indicating that the pressures to increase patient volume will negatively affect the level of care they can provide. In all, 51percent of respondents believe their ability to foster patient relationships will be adversely affected.

Due to these concerns, nine out of 10 physicians surveyed said they actively discourage friends and family from pursuing medical careers. Finally, 43 percent of respondents indicated that they are contemplating retiring in the next five years as a result of the immense change that the health care system is undergoing.


*Congressional Budget Office. Estimate of the Effects of the Insurance Coverage Provisions Contained in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Public Law 111-148) and the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 (P.L. 111-152). March 2011.

†Appleby, J. A guide to health insurance exchanges. Kaiser Health News. July 10, 2011. Available at: http://www.kaiserhealthnews.org/stories/2011/march/30/exchange-faq.aspx. Accessed May 8, 2012.

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